Posted by: Aandeiyeen | February 22, 2011

Yakutat mining activity in a nutshell: 2008-present

For those that need to get caught up on Yakutat’s situation, here’s an abridged version:

Tongass Timber Reform Act of 1990 was supported by various groups in Yakutat.  Under this bill, a significant portion of the Forelands were protected from timber development and road construction.   The area is still open to mineral entry under the General Mining Law of 1872.

Jump to the summer of 2008, a junior mining company staked a massive area of mineral claims in the Yakutat Forelands.  Additional claims were staked in 2009, bringing the total to 92 square miles of claims. The search was for titanium and iron.

April 2009, the company held a community meeting to answer questions about what they were doing in our backyard.  When asked how they would mitigate harm to the salmon spawning habitat- their best example was using blimps to transport the ore… credibility is questioned from there on out.

Summer 2009, Yakutat residents vocalize concerns about mining in this sensitive area.  Letters are written, petitions are signed, bumperstickers saying “I don’t care what the Mining Law of 1872 says: the Yakutat Forelands are not for sale” makes appearances all over town.

The primary interest switched to gold, which is sexier than titanium or iron, when assay results indicated there was gold in the area.  A misleading headline “$34.5 Billion Gold Discovery in Yakutat” was published on the front page of Juneau Empire in September 2009.

Resolutions were passed by the Alaska Native Brotherhood Grand Camp and National Congress of American Indians in October 2009 opposing mining in the Forelands. No monetary amount could make us sell our ancestral lands for short-term profit.

Interviews with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in a follow up Juneau Empire article published in November 2009 questioned the estimate the company made.   “That’s a screwy number,” Krause said. “It’s worse than just blindfold-with-a-dart type of thing. I don’t know why they came up with that, but there’s no basis.”

In June of 2010, a company quarterly report stated that the assay results from the exploration could not be verified.  The company stated it itself: the $34.5 Billion was a fabricated number that had no supporting evidence.  October 2010, the press catches wind of this.

Also in October, 2010, the claims were forfeited by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after the company failed to make annual maintenance fee payments.  The claims are gone but that does not mean the Forelands are safe.  The area is still open to mineral entry and Geohedral or any other company could come to Yakutat at a future date.

This is an advantageous time to seek additional protections for the Forelands.  The Yakutat Tlingit Tribe is taking the lead on proactively getting more protections.  Wish the distinguished members of the tribal council the courage and wisdom to lead our community in the right direction!


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