British Columbia’s top mine official says the province needs to address pollution pouring out of an abandoned tunnel east of Juneau.
Mines Minister Bill Bennett got an up-close look at what’s left of B.C.’s Tulsequah Chief Mine on Monday. It’s leaking acidic water into a river on the Canadian side of the border that flows into the salmon-rich Taku River. That waterway empties into the ocean near the capital city.
Bennett says scientists say the discharge is not harmful to fish. But he’s not proud of what he saw.
“I think B.C. is going to have to find a way to rectify it sooner than later and I think it is a most legitimate criticism of us by those folks in Alaska who don’t like it,” he says.
First Nations leaders are dismayed that the British Columbia government has extended environmental assessment certificates for two controversial mine projects.
The province granted a five-year extension to a certificate that had been given to an earlier version of the New Prosperity mine near Williams Lake.
The Tulsequah Chief mine, in the province's northwest, has been determined to have "substantially started," meaning the certificate will remain in effect for the life of the project....
... the Taku River Tlingit First Nation of Atlin has been opposing the Tulsequah Chief Mine for more than a decade. Chieftain Metals, which owns that project, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled last July that the government breached its duty to consult the band when it first declared the mine "substantially started" in 2012. The ruling forced the province to make the decision again, but after more consultation.
Polak said she is confident the province adequately consulted with the Taku River Tlingit before she made her announcement this week. But John Ward, a spokesman for the First Nation, said the band disagrees with the decision and will review it carefully.
"I don't know what it's going to take to change things," he said. "We're not opposing mines, we just want better processes, more responsible processes. We want assurance the land isn't going to be ruined for future generations."
(To read complete source article, click "The Province")
Chieftain Metals Corp., the company attempting to reopen the Tulsequah Chief Mine, has taken a financial hit.
Colorado-based Royal Gold provided Chieftain with a $10 million advance in December 2011 but has backed out of the agreement and requested repayment in full. Chieftain announced Dec. 23 that it will use an $18.5 million bridge loan from West Face Capital, announced in July, to repay it.
The National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood have added their voices to those calling for protections of salmon and eulachon rivers that flow from British Columbia and into Alaska.
Southeast Alaskan fishermen, tourism operators and environmental groups, as well as some municipalities and Native organizations like the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, have been vocal in their concern about British Columbia’s mining development plans, forming the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Working Group, traveling to D.C. to meet with Alaska’s Congressional delegation and environmental regulators, and holding many meetings sharing their concerns.
“The health of our rivers and streams is paramount for Alaska Natives and American Indians, especially those who rely on our traditional and customary ways of life. Since rivers do not recognize the arbitrary boundaries drawn on maps, it is the responsibility of the United States and Canada to work together on maintaining a healthy ecosystem and clean water for the protection of all of our subsistence resources,” said Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of NCAI, in a press release.
Chieftain Metals Corp. has released new details on its plan to barge supplies and minerals to and from the Tulsequah Chief Mine, up the Taku River south of Juneau.
Chieftain is trying to re-open the long closed zinc, copper and gold mine in British Columbia. The company filed an updated feasibility study with Canadian financial regulators earlier this month. It says the Taku is likely to be impassable about 23 percent of the time during the proposed barging season from May to September. Another 23 percent of the time, barges will need a tug to help navigate the river.
Chris Zimmer with the environmental organization Rivers Without Borders says the report is light on other details about the company’s barging plan.
“When you look at this, you just think, ‘Boy, how are they going to make this work?'” Zimmer says. “Because they’ve got to get concentrate out on schedule to get it on a barge and to get it down to a freighter in Seattle. And given the conditions in the river, I just can’t see how they’re going to be able to make this work.”
The Keystone XL controversy may currently be consuming most of the U.S. government’s attention, but it’s not the only environmental crisis-in-the-making coming our way via Canada. A pro-development push north of the border is paving the way for large-scale mining projects located at key watersheds. Downstream in Alaska, commercial fishermen, conservation groups and others who fear for the mines’ potential to damage their homes and livelihoods can do nothing but watch.
Emblematic among these perceived threats is the KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell) mine, a British Columbia project in the transboundary Unuk River watershed. Alaska, the United State’s last major remaining source of wild-caught salmon, boasts five species of salmon; all can be found in the Unuk, which boasts one of the region’s largest runs of king, or chinook, salmon. On the U.S. side of the border, the Unuk flows into the Misty Fjords National Monument, a federal wilderness area.
KSM is somewhat uniquely imposing: if built, it would become one the world’s largest open-pit mines, capable of producing billions of pounds of copper and millions of pounds of silver, gold and molybdenum. It will be located less than 20 miles upstream from the U.S. border. In both size and controversy, KSM rivals Pebble Mine, the proposed open-pit copper mine currently the topic of fierce debate in Alaska. The difference here is that the ultimate decision whether or not to build the mine is largely out of Alaskans’ hands....
... KSM is terrifying based on its size alone, but add it to the number of other large, open-pit mines being fast-tracked toward approval, and the risks multiply. In 2011, Premiere Christy Clark, who trumpets mining as the province’s “comeback industry,” pledged to build eight new mines and expand nine others: right now, five projects in total are pending along the Taku , Stikine and Unuk watersheds, all of which are incredibly important, and delicate, salmon habitats. The same company behind the Mt. Polley disaster, Imperial Metals, has anther major project pending at a main tributary to the Stikine River watershed, “one of the largest salmon producers in the Tongass National Forest.” After Imperial Metals said it had no plans to slow down production in light of what happened at Mt. Polley, indigenous Canadians blockaded the mine in protest.
Chieftain Metals, owner of the Tulsequah Chief mine, has returned to plans to use barges on the Taku River, spurring concern from some in Juneau.
In its most recent plan to open the mine, the company had said it would build an 80-mile road from Atlin to the mine, instead of using barges for transport.
“This flip-flop from road to barge is very surprising. None of the barging efforts by Chieftain in 2011 and (by) previous mine owner Redfern, in 2007 and 2008, worked as planned and Chieftain’s own access report concluded in 2011 that none of the barging options were practical,” Chris Zimmer, Alaska Campaign Director of Rivers Without Borders, said in a press release. “The threat of salmon habitat damage from groundings and accidents, as well as spills of diesel fuel, cyanide and other chemicals, will certainly raise concerns in Juneau.”
Bill Bennett, British Columbia’s minister of energy and mines, traveled to Anchorage last week to tell Alaskans what they already know: Fish are important.
Bennett spoke at the Alaska Miners Association conference in part to reassure Alaskans that British Columbia takes mine safety seriously.
Bennett’s message isn’t important — it’s what we expect to hear from someone who works in a government interested in industrial development. What’s more important to Alaskans is the messenger.
When was the last time a British Columbian minister traveled to Alaska in such a prominent way?
The enormous Mount Polley Mine tailings dam failed Aug. 4, spilling millions of gallons of potentially toxic material into the Fraser River watershed. Even before that dam’s collapse, Alaskans had been alarmed about the progress of a series of mammoth mines just over the border from Alaska. The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Mine, for example, is planned for the headwaters of the Unuk River, which flows across the border and empties into the Pacific Ocean between Wrangell and Ketchikan. Each summer, the Unuk and other transboundary rivers host countless salmon and their eggs. The Mount Polley Mine disaster was a perfect example of Alaskans’ fears come to life.
Chieftain Metals’, on October 20, announced an update to the December 2012 feasibility study for the proposed Tulsequah Chief mine. The most significant change is a plan to access the mine using barges on the Taku River, rather than via an access road to Atlin, British Columbia.
“This flip-flop from road to barge is very surprising. None of the barging efforts by Chieftain in 2011 and previous mine owner Redfern in 2007 and 2008 worked as planned and Chieftain’s own access report concluded in 2011 that none of the barging options were practical,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders. “The threat of salmon habitat damage from groundings and accidents, as well as spills of diesel fuel, cyanide and other chemicals, will certainly raise concerns in Juneau.”
(To read complete release, click "Rivers Without Borders")
Facing difficulty in getting a road through rugged terrain to Canada's Tulsequah Chief mine, the company that wants to reopen the old gold, zinc and copper mine is now planning instead on bringing the ore out through Alaska by barge.
That's raising concerns in Alaska's capital city of Juneau, where the barges would pass through. The Canadian mine is just east of Juneau.
Chieftain Metals Corp. of Canada has provided few details so far about what that new barging plan would entail and what sort of regulatory hurdles there might be in either Alaska or British Columbia.
But the mine and its new proposed access plan are renewing fears for the Taku River, one of Southeast's top salmon-producing rivers, and a part of the foundation for local gillnet, sport fishing and tourism industries. The Tulsequah River flows into the Taku, which would be used for the barging plan.
Alaska Fish and Game officials say the Taku River drains one of the largest almost-entirely roadless watersheds on the West Coast, and provides spawning habitat for all five Pacific salmon species and habitat for an abundance of other wildlife.
Salmon runs and spawning streams shared by the U.S. and Canada could be threatened by big Canadian mining developments and the lax regulatory climate that led to British Columbia’s Mount Polley environmental disaster, two U.S. senators warned Monday.
“We have to show these people that salmon know no boundaries,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said while touring facilities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said he supports mines “but the right kind of mines.” Begich is worried at mine projects in the Canadian headwaters of the Stikine-Iskut, Unuk and Taku Rivers, all important salmon streams which flow into Southeast Alaska.
Begich called the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., last week and wrote a strongly worded letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The Honourable Justice George Macintosh has ruled that the BC Government breached its duty to consult the Taku River Tlingit First Nation when making a critical determination regarding the Tulsequah Chief Mine. Justice Macintosh also criticized evidence relied upon by the BC Government in making a determination that the project was substantially started. The Environment Minister must make the decision again which puts Chieftain Metals mine approvals at risk.
British Columbia sees aggressive development of its natural resources as a way to improve its economy; Southeast Alaska fishermen, tribes and environmental organizations see it as a threat to their fisheries and way of life.
A First Nation has launched a lawsuit in an attempt to stop a struggling but potentially lucrative mine in northwestern British Columbia, more than a decade after the band's first court challenge of the project.
The Taku River Tlingit First Nation has filed a notice in B.C. Supreme Court asking that the Tulsequah Chief mine project, owned by Chieftain Metals, be stopped.
(To read complete press release, click "The Canadian Press")
Last summer, John Grace, one of the world's elite kayakers, traveled more than 3,000 miles from his North Carolina home into the wild northwest corner of British Columbia, to explore the Iskut River. It's the biggest tributary of the Stikine River, which flows all the way to the Alaska panhandle coast, and together they're the kind of big, untamed salmon-rich river system no longer found in the American West. On a sunny August day, deep in the backcountry, Grace and a few friends paddled toward the jaws of Iskut Canyon, hoping to reach a four-mile stretch of surging whitewater that no human had conquered before.
As they neared the canyon, the haunting silence of the rainforest closed in around them. Suddenly they found themselves in the midst of a vast construction camp. Workers were boring a tunnel into the mountain, part of a hydropower project to harness the great force of the river.
(To read the complete source article, click "High Country News")
ATLIN, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Nov. 28, 2012) - The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN), faced with significant concerns about the state of Chieftain Metals' proposal and negotiations, held a Joint Clan meeting on November 18, 2012 where the Joint Clan Forum rejected the proposed Tulsequah Chief Project.
The Joint Clan Mandate instructs TRTFN Leadership to "take all steps necessary to ensure that the Tulsequah Chief project, as currently proposed, is not developed on Taku River Tlingit Territory."