Proposed Coal Mine in Chickaloon Divides Residents
Project is in exploratory stages
CHICKALOON - In the Matanuska Valley, Chickaloon is a place known for its moose and mountains, but now there is a proposed coal mine.
Work began over the weekend and residents said: it is tearing the community apart.
“Everyone’s got an opinion,” said Karl Braendel.
Riversdale Alaska, a mining company, has begun exploring at Castle Mountain, and Braendel said everyone is taking a stance.
“It's going to change our lives around here whether we like it or not,” said Braendel. “And I hunt moose up there in the fall and it has potential to wreck my moose hunting area.”
Braendel has lived and worked in the Chickaloon area for 27 years as a hunting guide. He said whether or not coal is found, his hunting trips up the mountain will never be the same.
“You’re just not going to get that if there are roads up there,” said Braendel. “Exploration roads, is the part that is bothering me right now.”
But Chickaloon resident of almost 20 years, Bettie Evans, said the changes aren’t all bad.
“I think it would be a good thing because if it brings in employment to people, it would help out a lot, but there are people who don’t want anymore interruptions out here,” said Evans.
Opponents of the mine cite environmental studies that show the well water that supplies about 200 people could be contaminated, but Evans said it won’t make a difference.
“I got every kind of mineral you got in the water and I just have a filter for my water, and my water goes down about 125 feet, but every time we get a shake my water tastes different,” said Evans.
The Chickaloon Village Traditional Council said coal dust in the air would be bad for everyone’s health. “It’s the proximity which is our biggest concern,” said executive director for the Chickaloon Traditional Council Jennifer Harrison. “Our second concern is this is a traditional area, where we hunt, there is a big moose population area out there so we are concerned about the impacts to the moose.”
But Braendel said it's about more than his moose harvest.
“There aren't many mountains like that mountain there,” said Braendel. “I mean Alaska's got mountains everywhere, but some of them stand out and Castle Mountain stands out above an ordinary mountain. Its such a beautiful place its just painful to think that there will be coal trucks possibly running up and down the road."
In the coming months, more than just its moose and mountains could define this community -- a mine could divide it.
KTVA was not able to reach Riversdale for comment. And right now, the company has not begun mining. It is still only in the exploratory stages.