Remediation RFP out for Tulsequah Chief mine

Fisheries conservation, tribal entities hopeful of potential end to acid drainage

Fisheries conservation and tribal entities in Southeast Alaska are expressing optimism over a potential halt to acid drainage from the Tulsequah Chief mine, now that the British Columbia government is taking action to develop a remediation plan.

The deadline for requests for proposals issued by the B.C. government for development of a remediation plan to enable mitigation of contamination from the mine is the end of November,

“It’s encouraging to see the B.C. government moving to take over responsibility for the mine,” said Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders.

“Two companies have gone bankrupt trying to re-open this mine, both leaving a significant acid mine drainage problem in the Taku watershed, the transboundary region’s top salmon producer.

“It’s been a black eye for the B.C. government for a couple of decades. I think they are looking for a permanent solution and not some temporary measure.”

John Morris, vice president of the Douglas Indian Association, said that the fact that the B.C. government has issued an RFP to develop a remediation plan to enable mitigation of contamination of that mine makes him hopeful.

Advertisement

“I’ve been a strong advocate for cleanup of the Tulsequah Chief,” he said. “I’ve been saying it for quite a while. It’s been 61 years.”

The abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine has been discharging toxic acidic wastewater into the Taku watershed since it was first abandoned back in 1957.

Recently the Douglas Indian Association, the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker wrote letters expressing frustration over delays and urging British Columbia to ensure a prompt and complete mine cleanup.

“I grew up on the Taku River during the 1940s,” said Morris, “gillnetting, set netting and hunting moose. We are aware of the Tulsequah Chief mine. We used to travel there.”

When the mine closed in 1957 there was a holding pond with an eight-inch pipe that was leaching contaminants and pollution into the Tulsequah Chief River, which empties into the Taku River, he said.

“The Douglas Indian Association has been doing water quality testing on the Taku River,” he said. “We still fish the Taku River and hunt, so we are well aware of the contaminants from the mining industry.”

The B.C. government’s decision to see an RFP for development of a remediation plan came in the wake of bankrupt mine owner Chieftain Metals and its main creditor, West Face Capital, missed another deadline on Oct. 8 to provide a revised mine cleanup plan for the abandoned mine.

“There is widespread opposition to the Tulsequah Chief on both sides of the border and increasing demands for both an end to the long-standing acid mine drainage and a full closure of the abandoned mime,” Morris said.

“It’s good to see this recognized by B.C., which noted in the RFP that ‘the province is committed to finding a permanent resolution by remediating the risks’,” he said. “B.C. needs to enforce the law, be a responsible neighbor and protect salmon by ensuring a prompt and full cleanup and closure of Tulsequah Chief.”

Advertisement