A mine operator on trial over pollution at a Southwestern Alaska platinum mine told a federal jury Friday in Anchorage he knew of muddy wastewater that turned the Salmon River dirty brown. But though he was the on-site boss and designed the mine operation, James Slade testified he never alerted regulators of the problems because, he said, that wasn’t within his authority.
Instead, even when the turbidity of the discharges was hundreds of times greater than allowed under Platinum Creek Mine’s general permit in 2011, Slade emailed company executives the mine would “continue to produce 24/7 until the wheels fall off.” That acknowledgement by Slade provided a punch at the end of cross examination by assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis.
Slade, a mining consultant from Calgary, Alberta who became chief operating officer for XS Platinum Inc., is accused of six felony charges including conspiracy, various violations of the federal Clean Water Act, and submission of a false report. His testimony in U.S. District Court took up most of Friday, the 10th day of a trial during which prosecutors have called more than 25 witnesses and presented hundreds of exhibits. Slade, who began working for the mine owners in 2010 and stayed through 2011, was the sole defense witness.
He said he was thrilled when he was recruited to work on resurrecting the old platinum mine in one of Alaska’s historic mining areas.