A recent drill site at the Palmer Project. (Constantine Metal Resources)

A drill site at the Palmer Project north of Haines. (Photo courtesy of Constantine Metal Resources)

Constantine Metal Resources recently applied for waste management permits for the Palmer Project, a mineral exploration site in the Chilkat Valley. Now the Haines Borough has called a meeting with the Canadian company to learn more about its plans. 

During its second phase of exploration, Constantine plans to develop a staging area for equipment and excavate a 2,000-meter underground ramp to provide easier drilling access.

This will require removing 170,000 tonnes of rock. The company has proposed to use some of the waste rock for construction purposes and store the rest in stockpiles above ground.

Part of the waste management plan involves treating water that has seeped into the proposed underground ramp. This seepage would come in contact with wallrock and blasting residues. The company has proposed developing two settling ponds to treat seepage water before discharging it to the surrounding environment through a diffusing system.

But new regulations proposed by Haines Borough Assemblyman Will Prisciandaro challenge these plans. Last month, Prisciandaro introduced an ordinance that would prohibit aqueous storage of hazardous materials within a mile of any body of water.

The proposed sites for the settling ponds are within a mile of multiple creeks. However, the future of the ordinance is uncertain. Haines Borough attorney Brooks Chandler has raised questions about the legal authority of the Haines Borough to enact environmental regulations.

Waste rock storage and water treatment at the Palmer Project are of high importance to many Haines residents. The concern is that mining activity could cause acid and other harmful materials to leach into the surrounding watershed. Constantine says it is highly unlikely that any acid generating rock will be encountered during excavation of the tunnel.

The Haines Borough Assembly will discuss the waste management plans with representatives from Constantine at 5:30 pm on Tuesday. No public comments will be taken. However, comments on the waste management plan may be submitted to Kyle Moselle at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources until May 15.