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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a wastewater discharge permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to Coeur Alaska for the Kensington Gold Mine. The Kensington Gold Mine is located approximately 45 miles north-northwest of Juneau, Alaska in the Tongass National Forest. Coeur Alaska is planning to develop the underground gold mine and process the mined ore via flotation to produce a gold concentrate. The permit sets conditions on the amount of pollutants that can be discharged and requires monitoring of the discharge and receiving water bodies. The permit authorizes the discharge of mine drainage to Sherman Creek, treated domestic wastewater to Lynn Canal (during mine construction), and treated wastewater from the tailings storage facility in Lower Slate Lake to East Fork Slate Creek. NPDES permits are required under the Clean Water Act for all point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.
According to Ron Kreizenbeck , acting regional administrator for EPA Region 10, the permit includes “limits, which are protective of Alaska water quality standards and other permit conditions which are consistent with permit requirements for other large mining facilities in Alaska. In their permit application materials, Coeur committed to installing a state-of-the-art treatment plant to treat wastewater from the Tailings Storage Facility."
As part of the NPDES process, the state must certify under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act that the permit complies with state water quality standards. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation submitted a 401 certification, the conditions of which were incorporated into the permit.
EPA has also issued a Record of Decision (ROD) that documents the decision by EPA to issue the permit. The ROD is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The permit will become effective on September 1st unless a request for an appeal of the permit is filed with the Environmental Appeals Board. The 30-day appeal period begins on July 5th.