July 14, 2014
Revised Comment Period Will Ensure Alaska’s Miners Can Weigh in on New Permit
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young, both R-Alaska, today welcomed an announcement by the Army Corps of Engineers’ Alaska District that it will modify the comment period for a revised general permit for placer mining activities. The Corps will extend the current comment period for 45 days, and initiate a second comment period in October 2014. The new schedule will ensure that placer miners throughout Alaska have greater opportunity to provide their perspective – and increase the likelihood that the Corps will address concerns that the proposed permit will impose an unnecessary burden on them.
“I want to thank the Corps for working with Alaska’s mining community, Congressman Young, and me to get this right,” said Senator Murkowski. “We all recognized that the comment period should not end right in the middle of the placer mining season, when most miners will have no time or ability to communicate their concerns. This is a good move that will help ensure placer miners can keep working, without interruption or fear of harm to their operations, and then provide crucial feedback to the Corps once they’re back home again.”
“Today’s announcement by the Corps is good news for our placer miners in Alaska,” said Congressman Young. “This extension not only provides them with peace of mind for the remainder of the season, it also allows adequate time to provide feedback and views on these proposed changes. Having the comment period end while most of these remote, family-run placer mines are in full operation would have been a complete shame, particularly since these changes could severely impact their livelihoods. I must thank Colonel Lestochi for accepting my invitation to travel to Chicken last month and meet face-to-face with the Fortymile placer miners. I wholeheartedly believe the strong community involvement we showed the Corps during their visit played a significant role in their decision today.”
In May 2014, the Corps issued a notice seeking comment on a revised general permit for mechanical placer mining activities in Alaska. The comment period was to end on June 24, during the placer mining season, making it difficult, if not impossible, for many miners to provide comment. In early June, Murkowski and Young sent a letter to the Corps seeking an extension of the comment period through the end of the year. Later that month, Congressman Young and staff for Sen. Murkowski met with miners from the Fortymile Mining District and the Corps’ District Commander, Colonel Christopher Lestochi, to discuss this issue.
Placer mining is a critical part of the mining industry in Alaska – and a key contributor to Alaska’s economy. According to the Resource Development Council, “approximately 300 Alaska placer mines produced 100,000 ounces of gold in 2013.”