Wednesday, August 10, 2011

State Wants In on Court Battle Over Mining Initiative

Alaska’s Supreme Court has granted a motion from a mining partnership to expedite a judge’s decision over whether to allow voters in the Lake and Peninsula Borough to vote on an initiative that would affect development of the proposed Pebble mine.

The initiative from opponents of the mine would amend borough code to preclude granting permits for mining operations of greater than 640 acres that would result in “significant adverse impact” to salmon streams.

The Pebble Partnership wants a decision by Aug. 15. The court is also considering a request by the state of Alaska to participate in the case revolving around the so-called “Save Our Salmon” initiative. The initiative aims to prohibit construction of large-scale mining activities within the borough because of concerns that such a venture would adversely impact a number of salmon spawning streams. Officials with the Lake and Peninsula Borough have said they are not opposed to having the state participate in the litigation as a friend of the court, but initiative sponsors asked the court to deny that request, on grounds that the state was raising new arguments not argued or considered at the Superior Court level.

Attorneys for initiative backers said in their brief to the court that the state failed to intervene in lower court proceeds “at its own peril, and thereby waived its opportunity to raise those issues in this petition.”

The state said that the state has an interest in the case because of the potential impact to the state’s mineral resources. Alaska Attorney General John Burns argued in his brief to the court that “the ultimate disposition of this case is likely to have precedential effect.”

Superior Court Judge John Suddock handed down a decision on July 26 deferring a ruling on summary judgment motions for the initiative until after the October election.

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