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A Tulsequah Chief Cleanup? Encouraging Words For The Taku

Will Patric : Jan 23.2017

As we plunge into 2017, wondering what the implications of a new U.S. federal government will be to Alaska – British Columbia transboundary watersheds, it’s good to at least see some favorable signs for the Taku from both sides of the border.

On the heels of last September’s Chieftain bankruptcy, there has been no proponent for developing a new Tulsequah Chief mine, a proposal which has been nothing but controversial and now has no support.  BC is now saying some of the right things about finally cleaning up acid mine drainage from old mine works at the site dating to the 1950s.  Despite years of permit violations, BC has long tied any hope of ending the Taku pollution to opening a new much bigger mine on site.  We’ve been calling this what it is; narrow thinking biased toward mining. The Taku deserves better, and the new stance by the province, reflected in recent media, is welcome. Ketchikan Daily News editorial The Yukon News The Juneau Empire ktoo radio story

But while headlines suggest cleanup will happen, a closer read shows this is still far from a done deal.  BC continues to allege, without scientific justification, that the acid drainage is environmentally benign, an excuse it appears for delaying action.  The province also continues to say it is hoping a new company steps forth to resurrect the Tulsequah Chief project.  And “more studies” are being called for.

Still, having BC even acknowledge the Tulsequah Chief acid mine drainage and talk about addressing it is a huge step forward toward keeping the Taku wild and thriving.  Our challenge now is to sustain pressure from both sides of the border, including encouraging Alaska to be aggressive on the matter, toward making cleanup happen and finally moving beyond mining for the lower Taku.

In this regard, a quote from Alaska’s Governor Walker’s January 18 State of the State address is noteworthy…

“And I thank the British Columbia government for recognizing the responsibility to clean up the old Tulsequah Chief mine. Water doesn’t recognize political borders. I am committed to protecting our waters and the rich resources they support.”

 Still words, but encouraging to hear, echoing what we have long been asking for.

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