A conservation group operating along the Alaska-British Columbia border is citing a recent British Columbia mine inspection report that says acid mine drainage from a mine closed for many years continues to flow into a transboundary river.
The report from British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy and Mines on the mid-October the inspection of the Tulsequah Chief Mine, owned by Chieftain Metals, of Toronto, said acidic discharge was being discharged into the Tulsequah River. The Tulsequah River is a tributary of the Taku River in northern British Columbia, and Rivers Without Borders says these inspections document numerous permit violations, all of which pose threats to salmon in Southeast Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers. Rivers Without Borders is skeptical that cleanup will occur, due to weak enforcement and Chieftain Metals’ poor financial condition.
“The biggest problem is the agencies are again not requiring Chieftain to resume treatment of polluted water unless and until mine development begins,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers without Borders. “Chieftain is almost bankrupt and hasn’t announced any major investor interest in the mine, so given that mine development is unlikely, we are looking at continued pollution of the Taku watershed.
The latest inspections of the copper, zinc, silver and gold mine, which closed back in 1957, were conducted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office in July and the BC Ministry of the Environment and Ministry of Energy and Mines in October. The inspections documented a number of permit violations.
The BC inspection reports note that the mine, which saw production from 1951 to 1957, has legacy metal leaching/acid mine drainage concerns and no tailings facilities on site.
Southeast Alaska residents are urging a cooperative effort of the state and federal government to obtain guarantees from BC officials that the mine won’t harm water quality, fisheries or livelihoods downstream of the mine in Alaska.