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Haines doctors oppose local mine development, cite health risks

was written by Claire Stremple, KHNS – Haines , 2019-11-06 03:01:45

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

All four Haines medical doctors said that they oppose mine development in a letter to the local paper last month. Some residents who support mining say that makes them feel unwelcome at the clinic. The doctors say that was not the intent.

There is no mine near Haines yet, but if Constantine Metal Resources develops one they expect to offer over 250 full-time jobs.

Local doctors said that an influx of workers could burden the health system. They cited a locally commissioned report “The Social Costs of Mining on Rural Communities” that says mining dependent small communities risk higher rates of alcoholism, drug use, depression, and violent crime.

“To me, what they’re saying is totally wrong,” said Jerry Lapp.

He said he isn’t trying to censor anybody, but he wants a second opinion.

“That report is totally reflecting the opposite of what I have seen living here for 40-some years. The best times Haines had was when people were here working, spending money,” Lapp said.

He says their professional opinion is offensive to the mining community. He doesn’t want to see that impact health care.

“If I work for a mining company, am I gonna be treated different in there? If they’re thinking this way?” he wondered.

Doctors say that’s not the case at all.

“Oh, absolutely not,” said Dr. Greg Higgins.

“I mean, that’s almost insulting.”

He is one of the four doctors in Haines. He says this isn’t about singling out an industry. It’s about community health.

“It’s potentially a public health issue,” he clarified.

“I’ve seen it in any type of booming economy where there’s an influx of a tremendous amount of people looking to get wealthy. You see this in other industries and it has to do with just the boom aspect of it, it is not restricted to just mining.”

And he wants to make clear that he and his colleagues aren’t speaking on behalf of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, their employer.

SEARHC  is the only medical clinic in the borough. It has not taken a stance on the potential mine like the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation did when it opposed the Donlin Gold Mine.

But it apologized on behalf of the doctors.

It’s bringing up emotions in regards to healthcare and we certainly do apologize for that,” said SEARHC representative Maegan Bosak.

She said the health group supports community engagement on the part of their employees. Bosak says there are more constructive ways to it, but didn’t name any examples.

“We’ll leave that to the employees,” she said.

Constantine’s Vice President Liz Cornejo said the study lacks data from Alaska mines, but she wants to take a step back.

“Certainly there are aspects of the report I think are flawed, but I think the intentions of commissioning the report were good in wanting to engage on the topic,” she said.

She and the physicians agree on at least one thing, they would both like to see more community discussion.

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Denali National Park and Preserve. Initially intended to save wildlife, the vistas are nonetheless stunning. Denali incorporates 160 miles of the Alaska Range and dominating this sky line is North America’s greatest peak; 20,320 foot Mount McKinley simply one of the most great sights in Alaska, if not the world. However it’s not just the mountain that makes Denali National Park an exceptional place. The park is where you can 37 species of mammals, which range from lynx, marmots and Dall sheep, to foxes and snowshoe hares, and 130 different bird species have been identified here, including the extraordinary golden eagle. Many visitors, however, want to see 4 animals in particular: moose, caribou, wolf and everyone’s favorite: the grizzly, bear. Denali, in contrast to the majority of wilderness areas in the country, it’s not necessary to be a backpacker to experience this kind of wildlife, they can be seen right next to the famous Denali Park road. Not surprisingly then, visitors arrive here in droves; the park is a popular place, bringing in 432,000 visitors every year. Over time the National Park Service (NPS) has developed unique visitor-management strategies, including shutting its only road to the majority of vehicles. Due to this fact Denali National Park is still the amazing wilderness it was two decades previously. The entry has transformed, but the park itself hasn’t, and any brown bear meandering on a tundra ridge still provide the same quiet delight as it did when the park very first opened up in 1917. Despite the fact that generations of Athabascans had wandered through what’s presently the park, the first permanent settlement was started in 1905, when a gold miners’ rush established the town of Kantishna. A year later, naturalist and hunter Charles Sheldon was taken aback by the beauty of the land and mortified at the reckless abandon of the miners and big-game hunters. Sheldon returned in 1907 and explored the area along with guide Harry Karstens in an effort to setup boundaries for a proposed national park. Sheldon was successful and the area was established as Mount McKinley National Park in 1917 with Karstens serving as the park’s very first superintendent. As a result of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the park was increased to a lot more than 6 million acres and re-named Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali right now consists of an area somewhat bigger than the state of Massachusetts and is usually ranked as one of Alaska’s top destinations.

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