Nome protesters decry mine plans
Nome residents expressed their concerns Thursday about a proposed hard rock mine when Gov. Frank Murkowski appeared at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the road leading to it.
The $7.3 million Glacier Creek Road was built under Murkowski’s “Roads to Resources” initiative.
“I appreciate you all coming out here and voicing your legitimate concerns,” Murkowski told about 25 protesters asking the governor to provide the public with an independent environmental impact study on the proposed Rock Creek gold mine.
“We all want a better future for our children and the money to pay for it has to come from resource development,” Murkowski said.
Protesters said they don’t want the state to allow the open pit mine to be built as proposed.
“We want an independently prepared environmental impact statement; we want the DEC to uphold the clean water act and we want people to become more educated about hard rock mining and its potential harmful effects on Nome,” protester Chris Rowe said. “I believe that clean water is more valuable than the gold they will extract from the Rock Creek mine.”
“I assure you that there will not be environmental degradation — not in this project, not in this state,” Murkowski said.
The new Glacier Creek road leads to the site of the proposed Rock Creek mine and mill site that Alaska Gold Co. plans to bring on line soon.
Currently, Alaska Gold, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian firm NovaGold, is seeking the first necessary state and federal permits to begin constructing the mine and mill facilities.
Alaska Gold proposes to operate the first open pit hard rock mine on the Seward Peninsula. Unlike placer operations, open pit hard rock mines use cyanide-leaching processes to extract gold from ore.
Proposed at the site are a mill complex, a tailings storage facility, development rock dump and a 400-foot open pit measuring 3,000 feet by 1,200 feet. The tailings storage will include untreated and cyanide treated ore.
Project descriptions say that 9.9 million tons of tailings will be produced over the mine’s projected four- to five-year lifespan.
During the public comment period Nome residents and businesses spoke out for the project as a welcome operation to infuse the region with more jobs, income and a boost for the local economy.
“This new mine is important to Nome and the region as it will diversify our economy with the creation of new jobs, and the company will purchase goods and services from local businesses,” Nome Mayor Denise Michels wrote.
Nome Chamber of Commerce president Sue Greenly also supports the project.
“The positive economic effects on the community and the region cannot be underestimated. The Rock Creek mine will create 135 new jobs in a region with a 17 percent unemployment rate,” Greenly wrote.
But some people were uneasy about the use of cyanide and any potential environmental implications for the Snake River valley.
“Not everyone in Nome is of the same attitude and is connected to mining activities or mining jobs, or wish to see additional gold mining. For some Nome persons subsistence is a very important aspect of living in Nome, and potential impacts to Nome subsistence uses must not be abridged,” said Austin Ahmasuk.