A photo of the Palmer Project north of Haines provided to the Empire in 2019 by Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. (Courtesy photo)

A photo of the Palmer Project north of Haines provided to the Empire in 2019 by Constantine Metal Resources Ltd. (Courtesy photo)

Palmer Project challenge to administrative ruling denied by DEC

Constantine wanted to know “precisely how” wastewater standards would be assessed.

An administrative law judge and acting commissioner for Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has denied a request by the corporation behind the Palmer Project to reconsider portions of an administrative ruling granting it waste permits that weren’t in its favor.

The initial waste management permits for exploratory drilling were issued in mid-August, a victory for the mine, after a challenge by Chilkat Indian Village and five environmental groups represented by Earthjustice.

However, the 18-page split decision by then DEC Commissioner Jason Brune stated DEC staff hadn’t followed the established process the first time and needed to do so going forward.

Specifically, the decision required DEC to rely on in-house guidance in evaluating water standards, provide greater transparency of its work, and include public input as part of the process. Brune has since retired.

The ruling also determined, in the mining project’s favor, that it wasn’t required to meet more stringent Clean Water Act requirements. The environmental groups are weighing whether to appeal that portion of the decision to state Superior Court.

Constantine Mining LLC filed a petition for reconsideration on Sept. 1 with the Alaska Office of Administrative Hearings, stating portions of the ruling were “confusing.” It asked for a determination on “precisely how” water standards would be assessed.

In denying the request for reconsideration on Sept. 18, Administrative Law Judge Christopher Kennedy and Emma Pokon, acting commissioner of Environmental Conservation, said clarification isn’t necessary.

“The Acting Commissioner and Administrative Law Judge declined to micromanage how the Division should resolve the legal deficiencies, including by placing any arbitrary time limits on the Division,” said Erin Colón, an attorney for Earthjustice in Alaska.

American Mining Pacific Corp. did not respond to a request for comment.

The Palmer Project is a joint venture between an operating subsidiary of American Pacific Mining and Dowa Metals & Mining Co. Ltd. The operating subsidiary, Constantine, is the manager-operator of the project with 41% ownership while Dowa, which is based in Japan, has a 59% stake.

The mining project’s request for reconsideration did not address it having to meet Clean Water Act requirements. Because of the request to reconsider the deadline for an appeal has been pushed to Oct. 18.

The massive proposed underground mine is located about 15 miles southeast by road of the Tlingit village of Klukwan and 35 miles northwest of Haines.

The waste permit is just one of several permits connected to the project, including one that allows a mile-long tunnel big enough for commercial trucks to run under a glacier.

• Contact Meredith Jordan at meredith.jordan@juneauempire.com or (907) 615-3190.

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