By The Associated Press
The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Kensington Mine cited for creek erosion


Last updated 11/27/2005 at Noon

Alaska environmental regulators have cited the Kensington Mine for alleged water-quality violations caused by erosion and runoff at its construction site.

Mine developer Coeur Alaska has until Nov. 25 to come into compliance with the law, according to the citation issued Nov. 10.

Failing to comply could lead to civil penalties, or if the mine is found to be criminally negligent, as much as $200,000 in fines, state officials said Nov. 10.

The violation notice stems from a Nov. 3 inspection that was prompted by complaints from the public and a state Department of Natural Resources employee who noticed sediment in a creek that runs next to the mine's construction area.

"We inspected a number of sites, and it was apparent that there were problems at two sites where sediment from construction activity was reaching nearby Johnson Creek," said Lynn Kent, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's director of water, in a written statement Nov. 10.

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Violations stop activities

The company's permit dictates that the company must stop any activities causing water-quality violations.

"We are committed to compliance," said Luke Russell, vice president for environmental services for Idaho-based Coeur d'Alene Mine Corp., which owns the mine.

Russell said the problems have occurred during "very wet periods."

The activity of heavy trucks at the mine construction site is churning gravel into a muddy cocktail of fine particles - basically glacial flour - that is resisting the usual erosion control methods, state regulators said this week.

The problems are most apparent at the mine's access road, which crosses Johnson Creek a couple of times, and at the construction site for the Kensington Mine's ore processing mill, situated just above the creek, state regulators with the state Department of Natural Resources said.

According to the violation notice, test results from water samples taken by the DEC on Nov. 3 showed turbidity results that in two spots were respectively 720 and 1,600 times higher than the water-quality standard for turbidity, or stirred up sediment.

Coeur Alaska will pursue more "robust" methods to keep the material from escaping into waterways, Russell said.

Critics of the mine said the violations are evidence that Coeur Alaska is not living up to its environmental commitments.

"What happens on the ground is never as good as what's on paper. ... It really shows the need for substantial state oversight," said Kat Hall, mining coordinator for the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.


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