A company conducting mineral exploration in the Chilkat Valley recently commissioned an analysis of the Haines mining economy. Constantine Metal Resources paid for the report from Juneau-based Rain Coast Data. It estimates that the mining sector had a $5.2 million economic impact on Haines in 2016. Much of that comes from Greens Creek and Kensington workers.
One of the most obvious contributors to the Haines mining economy is Constantine’s Palmer Project, about 35 miles north of Haines. It’s not yet an active mine, but is in the exploration stage.
“I guess we commissioned the study to help put our own numbers in perspective,” said Constantine Exploration and Community Manager Liz Cornejo.
Cornejo said the company wanted to understand mining’s economic impact in Haines beyond the Palmer Project.
“I had a good understanding of our own numbers but I didn’t have a good understanding of the whole sector in Haines,” Cornejo said.
Constantine reached out to Rain Coast Data director Meilani Schijvens. Schijvens has previously done reports on Haines’ arts economy and Southeast Alaska’s economic changes.
“Mining as an industry is twice as significant to the Haines economy as it is to the overall Southeast Alaska economy, even though you don’t have any mines in active production there,” said Schijvens.
She calculated that the mining sector contributed $5.2 million and almost 100 jobs to the Haines economy in 2016. That includes 79 mining industry jobs and 19 from the multiplier effect – that is, jobs created by the money mine workers spend in Haines.
Haines mining jobs are diverse. The majority come from Constantine locally and Greens Creek and Kensington mines in the Juneau Borough. But there are also a number of road builders and drillers who support mining activity, a handful of placer miners and local TV production crew for Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush.
In 2016, Constantine had a hand in providing paychecks for 39 Haines residents. Most of those jobs are seasonal. The Rain Coast Data report says the direct earnings of Constantine employees were about half a million dollars. Factoring in indirect impacts of Constantine’s spending brings the number to $1.3 million.
But it’s the two outside mines that provide year-round employment that contributed the highest dollar amount to the Haines economy.
“The most significant economic contributor in the mining sector was those workers at the Kensington and Greens Creek mines, who are actually able to live in Haines and commute to Kensington and Greens Creek,” Schijvens said.
Last year, they employed 26 Haines residents, who earned an estimated $2.7 million.
“They’re able to have those really high-paying dollar jobs and bring those wages and salaries back to Haines,” Schijvens said. “And that ended up being really a significant contributor in the overall economy.”
Schijvens says the $100,000 average salary of Greens Creek and Kensington workers helps the mining sector account for a larger piece of Haines’ workforce earnings than she expected.
“It turns out that mining is eight percent of all employment earnings in Haines last year,” Schijvens said. “Which I thought was a pretty dramatic finding, personally. I was blown away by that finding. Because if you look at Southeast Alaska as a whole, mining is four percent of all wages.”
The report points out that on average, the Haines mining sector has highest-paid workers in the borough, with an average annual income of $86,000. That’s twice as much as the average income across all Haines jobs: $34,000.
Cornejo says the impact Greens Creek and Kensington workers have on the Haines economy surprised her.
“It sort of also highlights the potential for Haines in the future, if the Palmer Project were to become an operating mine, just what that could mean as far as wages locally in Haines,” Cornejo said.
But the head of a local conservation organization says the report does not address the potential environmental consequences of a Palmer Project mine.
“The real point is that none of the hidden costs to mining are included in this report,” said Lynn Canal Conservation president Eric Holle. “For example, long-term cleanup.”
Holle says the report focuses on the jobs mining creates without considering the negative impact they could have on other people’s jobs, including fishermen and tour operators if watersheds are contaminated.
View full report here: Haines Alaska Mining Economy