The Taku is part of the salmon-rich transboundary river system flowing from British Columbia into Southeast Alaska, where salmon fisheries are critical to the economy.
Tribal entities, the environmental entity Rivers Without Borders, and commercial fishing entities have been pushing BC officials for several years to clean up the dormant mine.
Chieftain Metals, owner of the controversial copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold mine southwest of Atlin, BC is no longer in discussion with Black Loon Metals about purchasing the mine, said Lindsay Byers, a spokeswoman for the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
Byers said Aug. 1 that the province’s chief inspector of mines has escalated enforcement and ordered Chieftain Metals to resolve issues identified during a September 2016 site inspection. If Chieftain Metals does not comply with these additional orders, the government will take appropriate steps, which may include seeking relief from the courts, Byers said in email response to a query.
“The province also understands that a third party (secured creditor) will be retaining an environmental consultant to review the existing data pertaining to the mine and will be developing a set of remediation plans in contemplation of operating the mine should there be a sale of the company Chieftain Metals,” Byers said.
In the fall of 2016, the province confiscated the $1.2 million security held for the mine, and a portion of those funds has been used to secure some hazardous waste on site and complete the aquatic and ecological risk assessment, Byers said. This summer the province will conduct work to address the orders in relation to the exfiltration pond at the site, and removal of some remaining hazardous waste from the mine site, she said.
Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders said the Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment released by the BC government on July 18 documents unacceptable risks from the ongoing acid mine drainage from the Tulsequah Chief.
The assessment by SLR under contract with the BC government, is online at http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/site-permitting-and-compliance/tulsequah/2017-04-17_tulsequah_mine_aera_slr_final_report.pdf
The assessment concludes, in part that “restricting overland flow would reduce exposure and thereby reduce risk to aquatic receptors. Overland discharge of untreated mine source waters from the exfiltration pond and portals into the Tulsequah River are sources of contamination to the Tulsequah River and aquatic receptors.”
“This new study finds “unacceptable risks” from acid mine drainage pouring out of the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine and should put to rest claims that the pollution is not harming fish and water quality,” Zimmer said.
“The only way to stop the illegal and clearly harmful acid mine drainage from the abandoned mine into the salmon-rich Taku watershed is for BC to honor its promises and take responsibility for mine cleanup and closure,” he said.