Transboundary mine developer shutting down – by Ed Schoenfeld (Alaska Public Radio Network – September 14, 2016)

The company trying to reopen the controversial Tulsequah Chief Mine, upstream from Juneau, is being taken over by an investor that’s owed millions of dollars. It means polluted water could continue to drain from mine tunnels into a Taku River tributary. But there are disagreements over what, if any, damage is being done.

Toronto-based Chieftain Metals has been trying to reopen the historic Tulsequah Chief Mine for about six years. The zinc, copper and gold mine is in northwest British Columbia, about 20 miles from the Alaska border. It’s next to a waterway that drains into the Taku River, near the capital city.

Biologists call it one of Southeast Alaska’s largest salmon-producing watersheds. But a major investor wants its debt repaid. Chieftain Metals doesn’t have enough money to do it. So, it’s going into receivership, which can lead to bankruptcy.

Chris Zimmer is Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders. “What it means for the Taku watershed is the pollution is likely to continue.” Zimmer said. It’s one of a number of groups critical of mines and exploration projects along British Columbia rivers that flow into Alaska.

“When this mine was abandoned in 1957, no reclamation was done. And so for almost 60 years, we’ve had acid mine drainage, which is very toxic to aquatic critters, flowing right into the Taku, out of this mine, really unabated, without any reasonable attempt at cleanup that actually worked,” Zimmer said.

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