Alaska Governor Sarah Palin on May 15, 2009 directed the state Department of Law to file “a supplemental brief with the United States Supreme Court supporting development of the Kensington Mine near Juneau” (Kensington Mine, 2009, ¶1).
“The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) filed a lawsuit to stop the mine. The suit alleged that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by issuing permits that allow tailings to be deposited in a small and remote muskeg lake. The state intervened to assist mine owner Coeur-Alaska and the corps in defending the permit” (Kensington Mine, 2009, ¶3). Tailings are the waste material which remains after metal is extracted from ore.
”The U.S. District Court upheld the corps permit, but SEACC appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court and invalidated the permit. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court followed” (Kensington Mine, 2009, ¶4).
“Except for the oil and gas sector, mining jobs are the best-paying jobs in Alaska, with average annual wages over $80,000,” she noted. “These jobs and the jobs created indirectly would be a tremendous boost to Southeast Alaska. Coeur-Alaska also has a good record of working with the university and tribal and ANCSA entities to train and hire Alaskans” (Kensington Mine, 2009, ¶7).
The Kensington Mine is located on the east side of Lynn Canal, about 45 miles northwest of downtown Juneau. It holds an estimated 1.35 million ounces of gold (Kensington Mine, 2009, ¶8).
The mine has been under construction since 2005 at a cost of more than $300 million. About 400 Alaskans have been employed during construction, of which almost half either are Alaska Natives or are employed by subcontractors of Alaska Native corporations. Construction is complete except for the tailings facility that is the subject of the lawsuit by SEACC (Kensington Mine, 2009, ¶9).
In today's "PC" world and with all the emphasis on "going green" leaving this issue alone or taking the side of SEACC might have been politically expeditious. But true leaders do not make decisions based solely on expedience or on "traveling the path of least resistance." A leader uses the following criteria as the underpinning of all decisions. Is the proposed action, safe, legal or authorized, and does the benefit outweigh the costs? (Hilley, 2008, p. 48).
The Kensington Mine satisfies all criteria. It is safe, legal, and the benefits outweigh the costs. As noted by the Governor, the mine produces 400 high paying jobs -- only oil and gas pay more. Alaska's Natives constitute over half the mine's employees.
That truly is a gold mine for Alaska -- in more ways than the precious metal being mined.
Governor Palin directs filing of new Kensington brief $300 million mining project would create hundreds of jobs. (2009, May 15). State of Alaska, Governor. Retrieved May 16, 2009 from: http://www.gov.state.ak.us/news.php?id=1846.
Hilley, J. (2008). Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Supplemental brief for petitioner State of Alaska. (2009, May 14).
State of Alaska, Department of Law. Retrieved May 17, 2009 from: http://www.law.alaska.gov/pdf/press/051409-SEACC_brief.pdf.