For miners today’s ruling by the US Supreme Court is probably the most significant of the year. I refer to the ruling in Coeur Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council. The details are readily available at this link. It boils down to the simple fact that tailings are fill and their discharge into waters of the United States is governed by the US Army Corp and not the US EPA. If they move fast enough, Couer Alaska Inc. can now get their mine going and put the tailings into Lower Slate Lake in Alaska.
Posts Tagged ‘Slate lake’
Posted in About the news, Enviromental, Gold, Law (Mining), North America, Tailings, tagged Alaska, Coeur, Greens Creek, McCain, mining, Palin, paste, Pebble Mine, Slate lake, Tailings on January 12, 2009 | 2 Comments »
The answer will not come for many months, yet the arguments in today’s hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court are worth revisiting as they are significant to mining and environmental protection alike. And to those who revel in dictionary distinctions—like Scrabble players.
The highest court in the land has chosen to hear the issue of whether the Kensington gold mine in Alaska may put their tailings into Lower Slate Lake, effectively filling it in time, or whether they should turn the tailings to paste and put them above-grade just like they do at the Greens Creek Mine not that far away.
In practice, the court will not decide this practical issue. Instead the court will delve into far “higher” matters. Keep in mind the Supreme Court only takes on cases involving constitutional and interpretation-of-law issues. And in this case the issue is the meaning and intent of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Basically the question the court is asked to determine is whether tailings are “fill” or alternatively “discharge” in terms of the act.