B.C. meeting with Tulsequah Chief Mine owner

The Tulsequah Chief Mine installed a water treatment plant to treat acid rock drainage. But it was shut down due to high operational costs. (Photo courtesy Chieftain Metals)
The Tulsequah Chief Mine installed a water treatment plant to treat acid rock drainage. But it was shut down due to high operational costs. (Photo courtesy Chieftain Metals)

A top British Columbia official is meeting with owners of the Tulsequah Chief Mine, which is leaking pollution into a river that flows into Alaska.

During a recent visit to the state, B.C. Minister of Mines Bill Bennett said his province should deal with the problem.

The mine, which closed more than 50 years ago, is leaking into a tributary of the Taku River. The fisheries-rich waterway empties into an ocean inlet about 25 miles northeast of Juneau.

Bennett Chief of Staff Cynthia Petrie says the minister has had several conversations with Tulsequah owner Chieftain Metals since his Alaska visit. She says no solution has been agreed upon.

She says discussions are ongoing and will include British Columbia’s Environment Ministry.

Chieftain Metals plans to reopen and expand the gold, zinc and copper mine. It says it’s put more than $100 million Canadian into the project.

Chieftain built and briefly used a water treatment plant at the site about three years ago. But the company shut it down, saying it was too expensive to operate.

Bennett and Chieftain cite studies saying the mine leakage is doing no damage. Critics say the studies were inadequate.

The Toronto Stock Exchange lists Chieftain’s value at 5½ cents per share. That’s about 1/100 of when it went on the market almost five years ago.

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Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.