ANCHORAGE (KTUU) A protest in downtown Anchorage called on the State of Alaska to step in to stop the development of a coal mine 45 miles west of the city.
The applicants behind the Chuitna Coal Project have been working through their current permit with the Department of Natural Resources for at least a decade. Officials behind the project with PacRim Coal LP said the financial benefits and job opportunities from development could be huge for Alaska but protesters maintain any disruption to critical salmon habitat is not worth it.
“We have 20,000 Alaskans that oppose this project, and what we're doing tonight is showing that opposition, showing that Alaskans care about our salmon resources,” said protester Kristen Collins. “We need our state to say, ‘No.’”
According to DNR, the proposed coal mine would have an expected production life is 25 years, mining 12 million tons of coal per year.
PacRim said their estimates project their proposed mine could create more than 2,000 jobs directly and indirectly, $12.5 million dollars in annual royalty payments to the land owner Alaska Mental Health Trust and ultimately millions of dollars in new mining license tax revenues to the state.
Still the safety of the environment is a big concern to the Chuitna Citizens Coalition, who said they have collected 20,000 signatures of opposition to the project.
“This project in particular really raises some big concerns when it comes to salmon in Alaska,” said protester Eric Booton.
According to a PacRim funded environmental study, there are an estimated 1,008 mature coho salmon that return to Middle Creek every year and could be impacted by their work.
In an informational letter, the developers wrote, "PacRim's plans include designing and constructing new salmon spawning and rearing habitat below the mine before mining begins to maintain existing salmon population levels during and after mining."
"There is a very motivated group of Alaskans that are tired of this project, and we want our state to say no, we don't want to trade our salmon for coal," said Collins.
Currently PacRim Coal officials are working to complete their state DNR application to develop their coal mine. Officials with the developer said they only have a "few final details" to work out before the state begins working on their draft supplementary environmental impact study to move forward with the permitting process.
On Nov. 2, the Army Corps of Engineers “administratively withdrew” the coal mine’s application, but the federal oversight agency is expected to resume work on the application once the state determines the DNR application is complete.