The multinational company that operates the massive Red Dog Mine in Northwest Alaska says that thawing permafrost linked to global warming has forced it to spend nearly $20 million to manage its water storage and discharge.
The problems at Red Dog, one of the world’s largest zinc mines, show how climate change poses a challenge not just to residents of Arctic Alaska, but also to the economy of the region, which is warming at triple the rate of the global average.
Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. says that permafrost thaw in the watershed surrounding Red Dog is releasing higher natural levels of dissolved minerals and other particles into streams.
That, in turn, has limited the mine’s ability to discharge its own treated wastewater into a nearby creek, causing water to back up in its tailings reservoir.
Red Dog can only discharge from the reservoir when the creek’s naturally occurring levels of “total dissolved solids” are below a certain threshold, said Wayne Hall, community and public relations manager for the mine.
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