Kensington gold mine in southeast Alaska has been granted a green light by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dump millions of tons of finely ground waste material into a nearby lake. The project has been the subject of a national environmental fight over whether navigable lakes and rivers can be used as dump sites for toxic mine tailings.
The corps last week announced it was extending Coeur Alaska’s permit until 2014 and said that the mining company could construct a tailings storage facility in Lower Slate Lake, below the gold mine. The U.S. Supreme Court this year upheld the project, but U.S. EPA urged the Corps of Engineers to take a second look at the lake disposal plan in July 2009.
The EPA and several conservation organizations have advocated that mine operators think about turning the waste material into a paste and depositing it on land on the other side of the mine. The company declined this disposal option and will instead fill in a portion of the lake with the mine tailings that are the same size and consistency of talcum powder. According to web site for the Kensington Gold Mine, the site has been the subject of 900 environmental studies, extensive public input and agency review.