Progress at last appears to be in the works on putting a stop to pollution from the Tulsequah Chief, a transboundary mine in British Columbia that hasn’t operated in over 60 years.
According to Alaska Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kyle Mosell the recent release of a remediation plan by the British Columbia officials is a huge step forward.
Mosell’s office, as well as officials with the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission in Sitka, have been in steady contact with provincial officials in an effort to halt pollution flowing into the Tulsequah River, which flows into the Taku River, a major salmon habitat flowing into Southeast Alaska.
“The release of the remediation plan, a conceptual plan, is a huge milestone in the process,” Mosell said. “Now they have a plan that needs to be informed by more field work over the next couple of years. They deserve tremendous credit for getting to that point,” he said.
Fred Olsen Jr, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission in Sitka, is somewhat less optimistic.
“It’s a difference of perspective,” said Olsen. He noted that despite the commitment from the BC government to spend up to $1.6 million for site preparation and studies to support early reclamation work at the mine site that the acid drainage into the transboundary waterway continues. “Hopefully something happens in three to five years that we can say ‘oh good, for the first time in 80 years the mine is not polluting the Taku watershed,’ but that remains to be seen,” he said.
The mine, currently owned by Chieftain Metals, Ltd., which acquired the property in 2010, was placed in receivership in September of 2016. Shortly thereafter inspectors from the BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, and a member of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation inspected the mine site. They found numerous non-compliance issues, ranging from no caretaker on site to drainage and maintenance issues at the sediment pond and unsecured storage of chemicals. Provincial government officials hired a contractor to properly secure all chemicals on site and in 2017 physical work at the site was done to mitigate risks at the exfiltration pond.
The BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has posted its Tulsequah Chief Mine Closure and Reclamation Plan online at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/environment/air-land-water/site-permitting-and-compliance/tulsequah/remediation_plan_tulsequah_chief_mine_site_for_distribution.pdf