Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Legality of referendum vote against Pebble Mine project in rural Alaska is under fire

Last month, voters in the remote hills of the Lake and Peninsula Borough in Alaska cast ballots to determine whether a proposed metals-mining project would proceed. By a vote of only 280-246, residents were able to "ban large-scale resource extraction," including mining for gold and copper, "that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat," The Associated Press reports. The legality of the vote is being questioned by the state of Alaska, which filed a lawsuit last Friday to invalidate the vote.

Superior Court Judge John Suddock initially cleared the vote, but is scheduled to address the legality of the vote again on Monday, Nov. 7, Kim Murphy of the Los Angeles Times reports. Lamar Cotten, manager of the Lake and Peninsula Borough, told Murphy that $600,000 to $700,000 was spent to try influence votes, and of even greater concern is whether cities and boroughs have the power to control such activities on state land. (Read more)

The state is suing the borough, claiming the state's authority to govern mineral resources management and development outweighs the vote. "It is about upholding the state's constitutional authority and responsibility to evaluate whether, on balance, development of Alaska's resources is beneficial to all Alaskans," Attorney General John Burns said in a statement. (Read more)

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