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Greens Creek Files Plan to Expand Tailings Disposal Facility

Oct 9, 2020 | Mining, News

Aerial view of the Hecla Greens Creek mine port infrastructure in Southeast.

Greens Creek | Hecla

Hecla Greens Creek mine has filed an amendment to its General Plan of Operations to expand its Tailing Disposal Facility (TDF) by approximately 13.7 acres. The expansion is primarily inside the existing US Forest Service lease area and will allow mine operations to continue past 2031, when the current facility is expected be full.

“This amendment culminates years of careful planning to develop a plan that minimizes impacts on Admiralty Island National Monument and the fish-bearing sections of Tributary Creek,” said Greens Creek VP and General Manager Brian Erickson. “We believe our proposed plan maximizes disposal volume and minimizes new disturbance.”

The filing sets off a formal process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which begins with today’s publication of a notice of intent (NOI) in the Federal Register. The NOI describes the proposed scoping process, including meetings and how the public can get involved, along with consultations with tribes.

 

Hecla’s proposed plan:

  • Avoids new Monument disturbance outside the existing US Forest Service-approved Greens Creek Lease Boundary
  • Avoids direct disturbance to fish-bearing reaches of Tributary Creek
  • Avoids the need to construct a new, remote tailings-disposal facility
  • Continues the same or similar dry-stack tailings-disposal method, which has been previously reviewed and approved by the US Forest Service
  • Extends the existing tailings stack in a manner that minimizes disturbance. To the extent practical, it locates the extended tailings stack and new, associated, supporting infrastructure on areas already disturbed and/or on areas immediately adjacent to existing disturbance. Where possible, the company plans to use in-place infrastructure, such as roads, water-treatment facilities, drainage control, etc.
  • Minimizes direct, new disturbance to environmental resources and sensitive habitats, such as jurisdictional waters of the U.S.
  • Considers future closure and reclamation as part of design and operations
  • Designs and constructs the TDF to be technically feasible and environmentally sound
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Greens Creek has used a dry-stack tailings-disposal technique from its beginning in 1988. Dry stacking eliminates the need for embankment and a slurry pond and reduced the initial tailings footprint.

The mine requested TDF expansions in 2001 and 2010 as exploration activity identified additional resources. In both cases, the US Forest Service employed the NEPA process to review the extensions, and in both cases, determined the existing site continued to be the appropriate and most environmentally sensitive place for TDF expansion.

Greens Creek is a major economic and philanthropic pillar in Southeast Alaska. It is Juneau’s largest taxpayer and largest private-sector employer. It helps support more than fifty nonprofits in the Juneau area, including the Pathways to Mining program at the University of Alaska Southeast. Recently, Hecla Mining Company, through its Charitable Foundation, committed up to $125,000 in financial assistance to support community needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

Initial Schedule for the NEPA Process

October 9: Publish Notice of Intent in Federal Register
October 9-November 23: Formal scoping period
October 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Virtual scoping meeting
October 29, 5:30-7:30 p.m.: Virtual scoping meeting

To register for a virtual scoping meeting, please click on this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/greens-creek-mine-north-extension-project-supplemental-eis-registration-124506868395

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One factor that contributes to successful business operations is the ability to adapt to new situations; rare is the organization that flourishes without changing at all. This year, as we are all acutely aware by now, will go down in history for many, many things including the wide range of methods implemented by businesses as they adapted to the new landscape presented to them by COVID-19.

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