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Chickaloon residents get reprieve from coal hunters
[May 02, 2007]

Chickaloon residents get reprieve from coal hunters


(Anchorage Daily News (Alaska) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) May 2--WASILLA -- Chickaloon residents breathed a sigh of relief last week after a Canadian company relinquished its claim on leases for coal exploration on nearly 23,000 acres of surrounding land.



But the state agency that owns the property, located off the Glenn Highway north of Sutton, said it might put the leases out for bid again at any time.

Wendy Woolf, acting executive director of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Land Office, said the agency is evaluating its options. She said people have expressed interest in the land, but declined to be more specific.


"I can only say there are interested parties," she said.

If the agency did put the leases out for bid, it would issue a public notice to that effect, she said. The agency could offer all or part of the land for lease, she said.

Area residents, however, said any future coal proposals would likely meet the same fierce opposition that Vancouver-based Full Metal Minerals cited in part for relinquishing their claims.

The company originally purchased leases for coal exploration in August but withdrew last week, citing local opposition and technical problems that would make extracting the coal difficult.

The company had also lost a key financial partner after Kodiak-based Afognak Native Corp. decided not to exercise an option to chip in up to $2 million for exploration.

While coal mining is part of Chickaloon's history, most current residents oppose such development, said Lisa Stevenson, who helped form a nonprofit group to fight the proposed coal project.

Stevenson said residents hope to persuade trust officials to use the land for other purposes.

"Our point is they can't do coal. It's not going to work here," she said.

Woolf said all proposals would be considered. But she said other uses for the land are limited.

The trust owns only the subsurface rights on about 75 percent of the land. The remaining 25 percent, where it owns the surface and subsurface rights, is largely inaccessible, she said.

Also affected by Full Metal Minerals' withdrawal was a lawsuit filed by Randy Hobbs, president of Washington-based Hobbs Industries Inc.

Hobbs owns leases on 80 acres of state land off Chickaloon River Road, adjacent to the trust authority land. Hobbs had sued the state, claiming his company was unfairly excluded from bidding on the leases purchased by Full Metal Minerals.

Both sides, however, moved last week to dismiss the lawsuit because of the company's withdrawal.

Hobbs said he harbors no ill will toward the state trust authority but may seek compensation for his legal fees, which he estimated at between $20,000 and $30,000.

Hobbs said he is interested in expanding his mining claims by as much as an additional 820 acres. While not actively mining, he said he may file a request for mining permits as early as this summer. His plan would be to sell the coal for use in heating homes and businesses, he said.

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Reporter S.J. Komarnitsky can be reached at skomarnitsky@adn.com or 352-6714.

Copyright (c) 2007, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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