British Columbia Moves Toward Cleaning Up Tulsequah Chief Mine

The British Columbia government issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the development of a remediation plan to enable mitigation of contamination from the Tulsequah Chief mine, which has been polluting transboundary salmon rivers for years. The deadline is the end of November.

The RFP comes in the wake of bankrupt mine owner Chieftain Metals and its main creditor, West Face Capital, missing another deadline in October to provide a revised mine cleanup plan for the abandoned mine.

Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders, hailed the request for proposals, saying it is encouraging to see British Columbia stepping in to take over responsibility for the cleanup. “I think they are looking for a permanent solution and not some temporary measure,” he said.

John Morris Sr., vice president of the Douglas Indian Association in Southeast Alaska, and a member of the Transboundary Commission, said he is “very hopeful” thanks to the provincial government’s action. Morris grew up on the Taku River in the 1940s, fishing for salmon as a gillnetter and set netter, and hunting moose. He recalled seeing, in travels to the mine site, an eight-inch pipe that was leaching contaminants into the Tulsequah Chief River, which empties into the Taku River, the largest salmon producer in the transboundary region. “We have been advocating for cleanup for many years,” he said.

Alaska state and congressional leaders have met with their Canadian counterparts over concerns stemming from threats to fish habitat from existing and planned British Columbia mines near transboundary waterways. Mine pollution in these transboundary waters would have a very negative impact on commercial, sport and subsistence fishing in Southeast Alaska, as well as tourism and wildlife. Last month Alaska Gov. Bill Walker urged B.C. officials to do “everything you can to expeditiously gain control of the Tulsequah Mine site, stop the unpermitted discharges, and fully remediate the site”.