Images from the Kensington Mine Case

More SlideshowsEarthjustice attorney Tom Waldo defended the Clean Water Act and Lower Slate Lake before the U.S. Supreme Court on January 12, 2009. Later that year, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Water Act permitted a mining company to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons per day of a toxic wastewater slurry into Lower Slate Lake, killing its fish and aquatic life.
Read about this case: A Dangerous Precedent for Other Mines and Other Industries

Aerial shot of Lynn Canal (left of peninsula), Berners Bay (right of peninsula) and the forestland that contains the proposed Kensington Mine site and Lower Slate Lake. Lions Head mountain looms in the background.

The Clean Water Act allows "fill material" to be put into waters for constructive purposes such as the creation of levees, seawalls, and the like, under permits issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Photo: Pat Costello

Lower Slate Lake (in the foreground), before preparations began there to store chemically processed waste from the Kensington Mine. Photo taken in 2005.

For decades, the regulatory definition of "fill material" expressly excluded waste, meaning the Army Corps could not permit waste dumps in waters.

Photo: Pat Costello

Additional flyover shot of Lower Slate Lake taken before preparations began to ready the lake to store chemically processed waste from the Kensington Mine. Photo taken in 2005.

In 2002, the Bush administration changed the definition of "fill" so that most solid material, including waste and contaminated materials, could be placed into waterways.

Photo: Pat Costello

Lower Slate Lake, after preparations to ready the lake to store chemically processed waste from the Kensington Mine.

Photo used with permission

Groundview of Lower Slate Lake before preparations began to ready the lake to store chemically processed waste from the Kensington Mine.

Photo used with permission

Groundview of Lower Slate Lake after the lake was used to store chemically processed waste from the Kensington Mine.

Photo used with permission

Aerial shot of Lower Slate Lake after the surrounding trees were cut down and access roads built. Photo taken in October 2006.

Earthjustice represented the Sierra Club, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, and Lynn Canal Conservation in a case surrounding the Kensington Mine's plan to destroy Lower Slate Lake by using it as a dumping ground for chemically processed mine tailings.

Photo: Pat Costello

Another view of Lower Slate Lake. Photo taken in October 2006.

In May 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the waste permit because it violated Clean Water Act prohibitions against destroying American waters.

Photo: Pat Costello

Aerial shot of the Kensington Mine mill site, where ore extracted from the mine would be processed. Lower Slate Lake is the further of the two lakes in the distance. Berners Bay is in the background. Photo taken in October 2006.

In June 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 2007 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, clearing the way for a mining company to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons per day of a toxic wastewater slurry into Lower Slate Lake, killing its fish and aquatic life.

Photo: Pat Costello

Canoers paddle Berners Bay in the shadow of Lions Head mountain, just below Lower Slate Lake and the proposed Kensington Mine site.

This rule change can be reversed with a new rule issued by the Corps and EPA, by legislation, or by revising the informal EPA memo.

Photo: Skip Gray



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Founded in 1998, AIDA is an environmental law organization that protects threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them.