In a quiet corner of B.C., a mine that shut down 60 years ago has been slowly leaking acid runoff into a river that flows into Alaska. Officials there are working to change that.
In 1957, the Tulsequah Chief mine on the shores of the Taku River in northwest B.C. closed its doors, leaving behind acid mine drainage — the acidic water created at mining sites that can then drain into waterways, which critics say can harm fish and other wildlife.
The drainage is a big concern for Alaskans given the location of the mine — next to one of the most important salmon rivers in the U.S. The Alaskan government has tried dozens of times to compel B.C. officials to do something about the drainage since the mine closed.
But the small mine has also become a symbol of larger problems with the security deposits that mining companies have to give the province, which are meant to cover cleanup costs should the company unexpectedly close shop. Two companies have owned the Tulsequah Chief mine in recent history — Redfern Resources and Chieftain Metals. Both were put into creditor protection, the latter in 2016.
In both cases, the companies had obtained their exploration permits while promising to cleanup the acid mine drainage. Chieftain Metals installed and had begun to operate a new water treatment plant on the site when it took over ownership, but the company’s bankruptcy signaled that, once more, Alaskans would have to wait.
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