The Tongass National Forest issued a decision today to allow a limited expansion of Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company’s (GCM) tailings facility in Admiralty Island National Monument (ANM).
Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole selected a modified Alternative D from the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), with those modifications described in the Record of Decision (ROD). The primary modification is not to authorize construction of a second tailings disposal facility in the Fowler Creek watershed as described in Alternatives C and D of the Final EIS.
Alternative D Modified, the Selected Alternative, authorizes GCM to expand the existing tailings disposal facility by about 18 acres, further south into Admiralty Island National Monument. An additional eight acres is authorized to be developed outside of the monument for rock quarry and reclamation material storage sites and for expanding an existing water management pond.
Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company will expand the capacity of the facility by about 2.1 million cubic yards. At the expected rate of fill, the ability of the facility to accept additional tailings will be extended by approximately ten years. No tailings will be deposited in any channeled sections of Tributary Creek.
Although the particulars of the Selected Alternative apply to this Decision, other action alternatives outlined in the Final EIS could, at a later time, be reconsidered through future analyses.
In 2010, GCM proposed to expand its tailings area 116 acres into ANM. Its proposal would have resulted in permanent loss of 1,646 feet of salmon stream habitat.
Under the provisions of the 1872 Mining Law, Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), and the Greens Creek Land Exchange Act of 1995, Hecla Greens Creek Mining Company has the right to mine, explore, and locate minerals in the national monument.
One of the largest private employers in Southeast Alaska, GCM is responsible for approximately 330 permanent, full-time jobs and has been operating in ANM since 1989. The mining company has estimated that, without the expansion, it would have to close operations in 2019, before it is able to mine its known reserves.
Issuance of this information by the U.S. Forest Service does not constitute a legal notice. The ROD will be published in the Federal Register shortly. Planning documents are available on the Tongasswebsite.
For more information, contact Forrest Cole, Tongass National Forest Supervisor, at (907) 228-6281 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Chad VanOrmer, Admiralty Island National Monument District Ranger, at (907) 789-6202 or email@example.com.