Miners Indicted for Illegal Discharges into Southwest Alaska Salmon Stream

A federal grand jury in Anchorage has indicted XS Platinum Inc. and five corporate officials on felony violations, including conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act, by discharging mine wastes into the Salmon River in Southwest Alaska.

The indictment handed down on Nov. 18 in Anchorage said that beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2011, XS Platinum and the individual defendants knowingly discharged industrial wastewaters from the mechanical placer mining operation at Platinum Creek Mine into the adjacent Salmon River, in violation of XS Platinum’s Clean Water Act general permit.

The Salmon River is an anadromous fish stream important for spawning for chinook, chum, coho, pink and sockeye salmon and the rearing of coho and sockeye salmon. After flowing through BLM land, the Salmon River crosses the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge before entering the Pacific Ocean at Kuskokwim Bay.

According to the indictment, the miners told federal regulators, and said in their permit applications that all wastewater would be recycled, resulting in zero discharge of mine wastewater into the Salmon River.

The indictment alleges that the Delaware based corporation and the five defendants conspired to violate the Clean Water Act by concealing the 2010 and 2011 mine wastewater discharge violations from federal officials, and submitting material false statements to federal agencies.

XS Platinum held 159 placer mining claims and 36 hard rock claims totaling more than 4,000 acres at the Platinum Creek Mine, which is situated along the Salmon River and its tributaries. The mine contains placer deposits of platinum metal, along with smaller amounts of gold and palladium. All but 21 of the claims were on land managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, with the remaining undeveloped claims within the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge.

The indictment further alleges that the industrial wastewaters discharged from the Platinum Creek Mine included large amounts of sediment, turbidity and toxic metals, that these discharges exceeded general permit limits for those pollutants and that the defendants failed to report the violations as required.

US Attorney for Alaska Karen Loeffler and Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the environment and natural resources division of the Department of Justice, released the indictment, which contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.