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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Constantine prevails in Ninth Circuit

Appeals court affirms validity of BLM issued permits for Palmer North of 60 Mining News – August 31, 2020


Last updated 9/1/2020 at 3:01pm

Constantine Dowa Palmer copper gold zinc silver barite exploration Haines Alaska

Constantine Metal Resources Ltd.

From the steep mountainside, this drill expands the rich mineral resources at Palmer. The Ninth Circuit Court ruling affirms the validity of permits that allow Constantine to complete road access.

Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. came out on the winning side of a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on a lawsuit brought by Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and others that challenged federal permits for road building on the company's Palmer zinc-copper-gold-silver-barite project near Haines, Alaska.

"We believe the Ninth Circuit decided correctly on this matter and are pleased with the final decision," said Liz Cornejo, community liaison and advisor to Constantine Metal Resources. "Constantine remains committed to quality science and meaningful engagement with Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan and other stakeholders through every step of our mineral exploration and development activities."

SEACC, along with other conservation groups and the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan, challenged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's approval of Constantine's applications for permits to build roughly 2.5 miles of road across federal lands to access the deposits at Palmer.

These groups argued that BLM's permits were not valid because they did not consider cumulative impact of future mine development at Palmer. After losing in federal district court, SEACC elevated its legal challenge to the Ninth Circuit.

The panel of appeals court judges agreed with the lower court finding that mineral exploration projects, such as the one BLM approved for Palmer, are not always advanced to mine development. And, since Constantine has not proposed or planned the construction of a producing mine then the consideration of such development is not needed during BLM's environmental assessment of the Palmer exploration project.

"BLM did not act arbitrarily by failing to consider those future impacts within a single EA," the Ninth Court judges penned in the Aug. 28 ruling.

"Although the we agree with the Bureau of Land Management and Ninth Circuit decision that the potential impacts of a future mine did not need to be considered to approve the current exploration work, we recognize the importance of ongoing scientific studies and stakeholder discussions during the exploration process that will help us create a responsible mine proposal for consideration in the future," said Cornejo.

SEACC and some residents in the Haines area are concerned that expanded development at Palmer may threaten an annual gathering of some 3,000 bald eagles that feed on an abundance of post spawning salmon carcasses in the Chilkat River, about 18 miles away from the Palmer project.

"As disappointing the Ninth Circuit Decision is, it will not stop us from the battle to protect the Chilkat River which is very vital to our traditional subsistence lifestyle that we have treasured for at least two millennia," said Chilkat Indian Village Vice President Jones Hotch Jr.

The state of Alaska established the 48,000-acre Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve in 1982, part of a larger agreement meant to protect the critical habitat of these renowned raptors while designating areas, such as where Palmer is located, for development. At the time, this compromise was hailed as an example of how to protect habitat while allowing for development of Haines' rich timber and mineral resources.

Merrill Palmer, who discovered the rich mineralization at Palmer, worked with SEACC and others to help establish the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve.

"I was disappointed that SEACC and others decided to litigate the current exploration work being done by Constantine on these lands outside of the preserve and hope they will reconsider their position and habit of obstructionist behavior," said Palmer. "We all have to work together to keep the community strong and healthy, and that includes respect for the livelihoods that resource development supports."

The Southeast Alaska conservation group, however, told Mining News they intend to keep up the fight against development at Palmer.

"While we are disappointed with the court's decision, we will continue to fight for the health of our communities, our clean water, and our salmon," said SEACC Upper Lynn Canal Organizer Shannon Donahue.

With Southeast Alaska experiencing economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Constantine said it is proud to be contributing to the local economy through its exploration at Palmer and adjacent new Big Nugget gold project. Out of 25 people working at these projects this summer, 19 are Haines locals and Alaskans.

Constantine Dowa Palmer copper gold zinc silver barite exploration Haines Alaska

Constantine Metal Resources Ltd.

The access road planned for Palmer would cross roughly 2.5 miles of federal lands.

Palmer sees future mine development as a rich prospect for Haines and its residents.

"I have persevered for 50 years to keep this opportunity alive and I will keep fighting for what I believe is a great gift for the people," he said. "A modern operating mine could add more than 250 year-round jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the borough. A mine could also provide an important source of minerals to support 'green technologies' and national security. Civilization is based upon mining. Without successful mining, you don't have a civilization."

This article was updated on Aug. 31 to reflect that the BLM permits considered by the Ninth District Court were for road building and not for underground development and on Sept. 1 to include comments provided by Chilkat Indian Village and SEACC.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 11 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (907) 726-1095


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