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Community input into Red Dog mine closure plan

The Red Dog mine in northwest Alaska was developed under an innovative operating agreement between Teck Alaska and the NANA Regional Corporation, a Native corporation owned by the local Inupiat people. The operation has injected more than a half billion dollars into the local economy, and over 50% of its current employees are NANA shareholders.

Although mining at Red Dog is expected to continue for another 20 years or more, State of Alaska law requires the operation to develop and fund a comprehensive closure plan. Teck and NANA asked SRK’s Vancouver and Anchorage offices to help develop the plan.

In addition to providing closure engineering and cost estimating, SRK worked with Teck and NANA to get stakeholder input. That effort began with the development of reports describing the technically viable closure options. The options were presented at a series of public meetings, and an Inupiat-language DVD was produced and provided to all of the homes in the directly affected communities.

SRK and Teck then facilitated two multi-stakeholder workshops that systematically reviewed the options and provided clear feedback on stakeholder preferences. About 65 people attended the first workshop, and 45 attended the second. The participants included representatives of the communities of Noatak and Kivalina, a subsistence harvesting committee comprised of elder hunters from the region, Teck and NANA staff, State regulators, NGOs and technical specialists. 

The workshops applied a number of innovations designed to help participants provide considered and clear feedback. Participants were grouped according to their primary interests, and each group was asked a series of questions that reflected their own perspective.  For example, the elder hunters were asked “will this option protect subsistence uses of the area?”, whilst the regulators were asked “will this option protect downstream water quality?”. Answers were gathered from each group and compiled to show group preferences. Individuals were also polled and their preferences compiled. The group and individual results showed clear preferences that became the basis of a Closure and Reclamation Plan filed in 2008, and accepted by the State in mid-2009.

Daryl Hockley:

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