Concerns are growing again in Southeast Alaska over the potential purchase of a British Columbia mine that has been leaking acid drainage into the salmon rich Taku watershed for more than 50 years, which has not been cleaned up as promised.
In a statement issued this past week, Frederick Olsen Jr., chairman of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, said he found it shocking that British Columbia has not discussed the implications of a new buyer for the Tulsequah Chief mine with the state of Alaska through the statement of cooperation signed last year.
“Alaska needs to seek the help of the U.S. federal government to hold British Columbia accountable for its environmental responsibilities at Tulsequah Chief,” Olsen said.
Nearly two years ago B.C.’s then Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett came to Juneau, Alaska, flew over the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine, and promised to clean up the ongoing acid mine drainage, said Chris Zimmer, of Rivers Without Borders.
The current mine owner, Chieftain Metals, declared bankruptcy in September 2016 and the company was placed in receivership. On June 2, the receiver, Grant Thornton, posted documents on its website showing a new company was interested in purchasing the mine, with the company’s name redacted from the documents, Zimmer said.
Asked for comment on the issue, Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said the state’s BC counterparts are aware that “we are concerned over the potential sale of the Tulsequah Chief mine and we will have the opportunity to reengage with our bilateral workgroup once their new provincial leadership takes office. Mallott also said he plans to meet in Washington, DC in July with the State Department, International Joint Commission and Alaska’s congressional delegation about the issue.
BC officials have so far declined to comment, noting that any statement regarding the future of the Tulsequah Chief mine won’t be forthcoming at least until its new government is sworn in.