Constantine community manager Liz Cornejo talks about core samples on a September tour of the exploration site. (Jillian Rogers)

Constantine community manager Liz Cornejo talks about core samples on a September tour of the exploration site. (Jillian Rogers)

Constantine Metal Resources, Ltd. is looking to expand exploration at its Palmer Project site north of Haines. The plan includes a 2.5-mile extension to an industrial road, which would provide access to up to 40 new drill sites. The Bureau of Land Management is now seeking public comment on Constantine’s upgrades.

Constantine’s request for further exploration of minerals containing copper, zinc, gold and silver, neighbors its current operation, which is within the Porcupine Mining District. The BLM previously gave the company the nod for mineral exploration, but only for up to five acres of ground disturbance. Anything over that and an organization has to file a plan of operations.

According to the BLM, Constantine submitted a new mine plan of operation in June, which would extend its existing access road. The new proposal requires further review, including a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis. Constantine is asking for an increased disturbance area of up to 41 acres, according to Dennis Teitzel, the BLM field manager for the Glennallen office.

“We have some mine plans of operation that are only six, eight, 10 acres in disturbance, there are some that are hundreds or thousands of acres in disturbance,” says Teitzel.

Teitzel says the comment period is an essential step in the process of examining the proposed plan.

“It’s one of the cornerstones that allows us to get insight into the public’s concerns with natural resource issues and what resources can be impacted and the things that we need to look at to ensure that we do not impact those resources or minimize the impact,” he said.

Along with an extra 2.5 miles of road, construction includes culvert and bridges over streams. It also includes a switchback road with berms, and an area at the end of that road to stage equipment, trailers and storage containers. The BLM says the road would provide access for up to 40 new drill sites, which would be located to the east of Constantine’s current exploration areas.

Constantine’s manager of exploration and community Liz Cornejo says the road would give employees access to sites that currently are only reachable by helicopter.

“It also allows to do some environmental and geotechnical studies that might help us make plans for the future and give us more information and give us access to some drill sites. But it also increases safety for the crews on the mountain that currently are sort of stranded on one side of the creek without any road access,” she says.

“Exploration is a progressive process, so each year you build on the previous year so in that way, it incrementally gets us closer,” adds Darwin Green, the vice president of exploration for Constantine.

He says an ongoing goal of the company is listening to, and communicating with, Haines residents. He says he’s looking forward to hearing what locals have to say about the plan.

Several local and regional conservation groups are getting ready to submit comments on the plan.

Meredith Pochardt is the executive director of Takshanuk Watershed Council. She says with new development at the headwaters of the Chilkat Valley comes concern of compromised water quality.

“And how they’re proposing to deal with any runoff, especially with the road. Constructing a road, obviously has some impacts and there are ways to mitigate for that and there are ways to properly design a road and as long as those are taken into account and implemented,” she says. “If they’re taking all the proper steps, that’s all we can ask for.”

Lynn Canal Conservation president Eric Holle says that perhaps a bigger concern is the switchback road up the mountainside.

“Because it’s very steep terrain there, and with the kind of rain we have around here such as we’ve had in the last week, that road would be on very unstable terrain so, we worry about that whole thing blowing out and really doing some damage to the creek,” Holle says.

Constantine plans to continue in the exploration phase of the Palmer Project for the next five to 10 years.

The public comment period on Constantine’s proposed plan opens on Dec. 2.and ends on Jan. 8.

Teitzel says the goal is to have the entire process completed by May, but it could take longer if closer examination is needed. The concerns in the public comments will influence the timeline, he adds.

To review the Proposed Plan of Operations and submit comments, please visit the BLM’s National NEPA register here:

Using an “Advanced Search,” enter this NEPA number:  DOI-BLM-AK-A020-2016-0006-EA.  Comments may also be submitted to the BLM Glennallen Field Office, Attn:  Constantine, P.O. Box 147, Glennallen, AK 99588.