By Max Graham
Chilkat Valley News
March 2, 2023
A Canadian developer with a murky track record says he is eyeing Haines as the site of an ore terminal that would serve “several” Alaska and Yukon mines.
Prosperity Investments, an Edmonton-based firm whose owner has a history of unfinished projects, has proposed to buy Skagway’s aging ore loader for $1, to dismantle and move it and to use the conveyor belt and other equipment to load ore for shipment from Haines or another “undisclosed” location. Prosperity also has proposed to dredge Skagway’s contaminated ore basin and use the dredged material to make concrete for building new ore transport equipment.
The company is “in the process of designing and building” a new ore terminal, project manager Terry Woodthorpe said in a proposal submitted to Skagway officials last week. That “includes building five new ore concentrate sheds of different sizes for different minerals,” he added, though the proposal provided few details and no drawings or cost estimates.
But Prosperity Investments, which was incorporated in Alaska two weeks ago, still hasn’t determined a site for the terminal, company owner Harold Jahn told the CVN this week.
Moreover, Jahn’s business record includes a lawsuit over a breach of contract and a number of unfinished or disputed projects in the U.S. or Canada.
Promoting his experience, Jahn told the CVN he has been working for years to build a new deep water port complex in Kitimat, British Columbia, and aims to start construction by 2027. He said it’s a $2 billion project spanning 200 acres including two container ship terminals and a dry dock. The CVN spoke with sources at the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, District of Kitimat and Haisla First Nation, several of whom had not heard of Jahn’s project. One official had heard of it but was unaware of any official steps being taken to advance it.
Still, Jahn’s ore loader proposal shows outside interest in shipping ore from Haines, or at least promoting it.
The issue of industrial mine export – which some residents worry will create haul truck traffic and pollute the environment – has long been contentious in Haines. In recent months, Lynn Canal Conservation has campaigned to prevent shipping ore from Lutak Dock, a large public freight dock that’s being renovated.
But Prosperity Investments’ proposal adds a new element to the debate. The Skagway Borough Assembly will address the proposal March 2. If the assembly rejects it, Prosperity still plans to develop an ore terminal with new equipment, Jahn said.
“It would be nice if we could stay in the region (near Skagway),” he said. The project could create local jobs, he added, and he suggested that Skagway’s ore terminal workers could stay employed by commuting to Haines in “fishing boats.”
Prosperity is exploring two potential sites in the Haines Borough, Jahn said. He declined to specify where, beyond stating that one is far from the town itself.
“At this time, because we’re in discussions with a bunch of different people, and we haven’t purchased any properties at this point, we can’t really disclose where those potential sites are,” Jahn said.
There has been some speculation that a private ore dock could be built on a waterfront parcel north of Lutak Dock, recently acquired by a subsidiary of Colaska, the parent company of Southeast Roadbuilders and SECON. But the company has had no contact with Jahn or Prosperity Investments, SECON general manager Tim Dudley said in an email to the CVN.
The property “was purchased to support our current operations in Southeast Alaska,” he added.
If Prosperity Investments can’t find a lot to buy or lease in Haines, it would take Skagway’s ore loader elsewhere, Jahn said. “We could have those pieces of equipment sit on barges for a couple years,” he added.
“I’m not a big fan of proposals that have vague elements in them. I would definitely want to know where it’s going to go,” said Skagway Mayor Andrew Cremata. “An ore loader with massive holes in it and probably mercury and lead contamination going into our backyard (Lutak Inlet) doesn’t really work for me.”
In a phone interview this week with the CVN, Cremata didn’t mince words about the state of the loader.
“You look at it from the outside and you go, ‘Oh, that’s in really terrible condition.’ And then you look at it from the inside and (see) light pouring into multiple holes, some quite large,” he said. “I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that it is still a giant environmental hazard and has been for some time.”
The loader, which operates until March 18 under a lease with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, is expected to be removed this year as part of a project to clean up the basin around the dock, which has been contaminated with lead and zinc from past ore shipments.
“The logic would be we could reuse that equipment rather than it just going to scrap,” Jahn said.
Not only is the loader likely to be removed whether or not Prosperity buys it, but Cremata has proposed an ordinance, yet to be voted on by the Skagway assembly, that would require ore to be loaded onto ships in closed containers, rather than by a conveyor belt.
That method isn’t a viable option for Minto Mine, which currently ships out of Skagway, Minto’s chief executive, Chris Stewart, said in an email to the CVN.
Both Jahn and Stewart said Skagway’s equipment can operate without polluting. “The ore loader works well in its current state, as we have seen from our air sampling during the loading process – no contamination during ship loading – but for whatever reason (I believe just legacy feelings about it) the Town of Skagway wants it gone from their dock,” Stewart said.
Haines is the next closest port for Minto, and if it’s not in play, the company would have to truck to Stewart, British Columbia, hundreds of miles to the south.
“Minto is actively looking for other loading options beyond Skagway and something closer than Stewart, B.C., would be preferable,” Stewart said. “If Haines had an ore loading port available, we would definitely consider that for our concentrate.”
Stewart said he has spoken with Jahn but is “not at liberty to discuss it at this time.”
Jahn said he has been in “daily” discussions with Minto over the past month.
There could be demand from other mines in the region, Jahn said, but he didn’t specify if any had directly expressed interest.
“There’s a list if you Google Yukon mining companies or Alaska mining companies,” Jahn said. “A lot of these companies—they have been in their processes for up to 10 years. We’re creating an Excel spreadsheet right now. There are about six Alaska mines and about eight Canadian mines. Those could all be potential users over the next seven-year period.” (There are six actively producing mines across Alaska, including three near Fairbanks and one in the Arctic.)
Jahn said he reached out to operators of the Palmer Project, the major exploratory mine northwest of Haines and Klukwan. They are “definitely not an immediate client for us” but “could potentially be” later on, he said.
Former Haines Borough planner Dave Long spoke twice with Jahn in recent months, according to borough manager Annette Kreitzer, who said she didn’t know details about their conversations. Long couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.
Haines Borough Mayor Douglas Olerud told the CVN he hadn’t heard of Prosperity Investments or Jahn prior to hearing from Cremata about the developer last week.
“We heard that gentleman had talked to Mr. Long about permitting,” Olerud said at a Haines Borough Assembly meeting Tuesday. If Jahn’s ore terminal proposal were to move forward, it would come before the borough’s planning commission, Olerud added.
News reports and court filings from the past decade suggest Jahn—who has owned or directed numerous companies with different names—has a history of proposing projects that don’t always pan out.
In 2018, a U.S. District Court judge ordered a default judgment against Prosperity Investments for likely breaching its contract with a California tech company called Provision Holding. That company alleged that Prosperity entered into agreements with “a then existing state of mind and intention not to perform,” according to court filings. Prosperity didn’t file a response or appear in court, and the judge ordered Jahn’s firm to pay $450,000.
In 2012, environmental regulators in Alberta said a different company owned by Jahn, Heartland Industrial Park, hadn’t been complying with a groundwater monitoring program at a former chemical plant near Edmonton, where there was known contamination. About two years after Jahn’s company bought the site, government officials said they “made multiple attempts to resolve the matter but the contamination issue remains unresolved.”
Jahn said this week that his company successfully remediated and redeveloped the property. “We had to spend a great deal of time with Alberta Environment to determine a plan to clean up the site, I believe we spent around $400,000 over a 24-month period (to) clean it up to be reoccupied and subdivided,” Jahn said in an email. (The CVN contacted local officials and the Alberta Ministry of Environment and Protected Areas but was unable to verify Jahn’s statement by press time.)
That same year, in 2012, a different company owned by Jahn, Pacifica Deep Sea Terminals, agreed to buy a former pulp mill on Vancouver Island for $8.6 million, but that deal went south after being extended three times, according to reports in the Campbell River Mirror.
Jahn told the CVN that a last-minute disclosure of contamination at the site—by the company selling it— had gotten in the way of access to funds from his mortgage company.
In 2019, Jahn told officials in Fernley, Nevada, that he had partnered with other entities with plans to develop a K-12 school, 2,000 low-rise apartment units, a technical college and a main street area with shops and restaurants on land north of town, according to a 2019 Reno Gazette-Journal report.
A source familiar with the development told the CVN that Jahn is no longer involved in that project.