Mine manager pleas to felony charge in Water Act violations

Old dredge at Platinum in 2002. (Photo by Dean Swope, KYUK - Bethel)
Old dredge at Platinum in 2002. (Photo by Dean Swope, KYUK – Bethel)

James Slade, the former XS Platinum manager convicted of violating federal Clean Water Act regulations, has agreed to plead guilty to a felony count, according to First Assistant U.S. District Attorney Kevin Feldis.

The former manager was originally charged with two misdemeanor crimes regarding the violations. Slade, along with two other Australian executives are accused of increasing efforts to recover platinum from an old mine on the edge of the Kuskokwim Bay, from 2010-2011—despite its potential hazards.

The extraction allowed dirty water in a pond to enter the Salmon River, according to prosecutors in early October.

The water turbidity, or its cloudiness, increased more than 200 times the amount allowed under federal law. This turned the clear water to a dirty brown.

The two Australian executives returned to their home country to evade charges. But Slade, who is Canadian, has had his passport taken and has to stay in the country for sentencing.

Feldis says earlier this month the jury was deadlocked on whether to go ahead on a felony charge for Slade, but he ultimately agreed to plead guilty.

His change of plea hearing is set for Dec. 11, and the sentencing trial is expected to take place in mid-January.