An arraignment was held Wednesday in federal court in Anchorage for XS Platinum Inc and two employees indicted on charges of violating the Clean Water Act.
Two individuals appeared in court, but Kevin Feldis, a first assistant US Attorney, and Chief of the criminal division, says the company itself did not.
“Although their registered agent in Delaware was served and accepted service of the summons ordering them to appear, they did not appear in court. The United States in response filed a motion seeking an order that they appear in court and if they don’t appear, we may be seeking sanctions or other penalties,” said Feldis.
The judge has a range of penalties, including charges of hundreds or thousand of dollars per day. Three company officials who are Canadian and Australian citizens are also facing charges but have not yet been arraigned.
XS Platinum owned and operated the Platinum Creek mine from 2008 to 2012. The company and its leadership are accused of polluting the Salmon River with mine discharge, which was documented on aerial surveys flown by Togiak Refuge staff in 2011. Located near Goodnews Bay, the area has a history of platinum mining throughout last century.
The indictment says the company used wastewater ponds that leaked into the river and dug a ditch to direct wastewater into nearby Squirrel Creek. The company never bought a clarifier, used to recycle water, despite telling regulators it would do so.
This is the first federal criminal case involving environmental crimes in Alaska. Feldis says there is a strong federal component, as the mine was on Bureau of Land Management land and affected a waterway.
“The indictment alleges that the conduct that occurred, the types of discharges, and the nature of those, are are violations of federal law,” said Feldis.
Two of the accused, Robert Pate and James Staehli, both residents of Washington state, were in court and entered not guilty pleas. A trial date is set for March 9th.
An earlier version of this story stated that three defendants did not appear in court. Those company officials have not been officially summoned. XS Platinum, the company, is also facing charges and its registered agent did not appear.
KDLG’s Dave Bendinger contributed to this story. The Fairbanks Daily News Miner first reported this story.