Chrononlogy of Tulsequah and Big Bull Acid Mine Drainage Clean Up Orders, Inspections and Responses

Chris Zimmer : Jun 26.2012



  • 1957 – Cominco closes the Tulsequah Chief mine without cleanup of Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) or reclamation of the site.
  • October 26, 1989 – British Columbia (BC) issues pollution abatement order to Cominco for AMD at the Tulsequah Chief mine site. It requires a site survey and a cleanup plan. It was appealed and subsequently upheld.
  • 1990-1992 – Site investigations and a remediation plan done.
  • 1990 – BC first tests the Tulsequah Chief site in 1990, and finds “considerable acid generation,” adding that the water samples taken were “acutely toxic” to fish.
  • May 1, 1990 – Environmental Assessment filed by Cominco.
  • November 1, 1990 – Cominco files a report on Preliminary Environmental Evaluation of the Tulsequah Chief site.
  • August 1, 1991 – Cominco files report for Preliminary Plans for Control of AMD and Alternative Abandonment Plans for Tulsequah Chief by Redfern.
  • October 1, 1991 – Redfern files report on Site Reconnaissance and Preliminary Acid Generation Control and Site Rehabilitation Plan.
  • 1992 – Redfern Resources (now Redfern Ventures, Ltd.) proposes to re-open the Tulsequah Chief mine.
  • July 1, 1992 – Cominco files report on Mine Site Assessment and Options for Rehabilitation for AMD Abatement
  • January 28, 1993 – BC issues a pollution abatement order to Redfern for the Tulsequah Chief. Periodic monitoring reports are required.
  • Undated and unsigned memo on Site Remediation Progress to Date says Redfern has deposited $1.15 million into an escrow account for mine rehabilitation and that the SRK consultants rehabilitation plan satisfies the terms of the original abatement order. Also says that a reduction of 70-80% of the pollution would probably be sufficient.
  • April 21, 1994 – Monitoring report received by BC.
  • 1998-2003 – BC officials retest the Tulsequah Chief site five times. BC takes no meaningful action to enforce clean-up
  • 1998 – Environment Canada (EC) issues warning letters to Redfern about the AMD problem at both its Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull mine sites.
  • 1999 – Redfern attempts a fix at the Tulsequah Chief with limestone dams and a disposal field.
  • July 12, 2002 – EC issues Inspector’s Directions under the Fisheries Act for Big Bull and Tulsequah Chief sites, ordering Redfern to stop toxic mine drainage from entering the Tulsequah River by September 30, 2003. The company then plugged some holes and diverted water flows.
  • Fall 2003 – EC inspects Tulsequah Chief and finds the attempted fixes aren’t adequate. At Big Bull, EC finds significantly less surface water, but toxicity of discharge had not changed.
  • October 2003 – Canadian federal investigators visit Redfern’s Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull mine sites and finds that “none of the measures undertaken by Redfern had significantly reduced the acutely lethal toxicity of the ARD [Acid Rock Drainage] discharges from the two mine sites.”
  • October 22, 2003 – Redfern requests extension of the federal Inspector’s Directions until June 30, 2005.
  • November 27, 2003 – Final remediation report from Redfern received by EC.
  • May 12, 2004 – Both Inspector’s Directions (for Big Bull and Tulsequah Chief) extended until June 30, 2005 with requirement for monthly monitoring reports from Redfern.
  • May 28, 2004 – Bruce Rawson, representing Redfern, wrote to EC with a list of concerns for a June 1 meeting. Primary concern was Redfern’s claims that EC’s enforcement actions do not recognize the constraints of the site or Redfern’s limited financial resources.
  • July 2004 – EC conducts on site inspection.
  • July 2005 – Redfern installs treatment plant at Tulsequah Chief site. President Terry Chandler says in order to build a better treatment system, the company needs a road into the site and money to run a treatment plant, things that can only be done if the mine is reopened.
  • September 2005 – EC inspects Tulsequah Chief site and treatment plant.
  • 2006 – EC and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans deny all requests for information on AMD and cleanup from Rivers Without Borders.
  • 2007 – BC officials provide no useful information in response to repeated phone, email and letter requests for information on the status of cleanup and AMD pollution.
  • May 2, 2007 – Redfern officials deny written and verbal requests for information on the status of cleanup efforts and AMD pollution from Rivers Without Borders.
  • March 4, 2009 – Redfern files for bankruptcy protection.
  • May 14, 2009 – Inspector Wade Comin inspects Tulsequah Chief site.
  • May 22, 2009 – Inspector Comin issues an Inspector’s Direction requiring that pollution be halted by July 15 and that a report be issued by Redfern by August 1, 2009.
  • May 29, 2009 – Bankruptcy court denies Redfern’s request to extend protection and appoints receiver.
  • June 16, 2009 – John Heinonen of DFO inspects Tulsequah Chief and issues a trip report.
  • July 1, 2009 – Alaska Governor Palin and DNR Commissioner Irwin send letters to Redfern’s receiver and BC Premier Campbell urging mine site cleanup.
  • July 2009 – Redfern removes most of the equipment and a water treatment plant from the site for sale in order to satisfy creditors.
  • November 2009 – Chieftain Metals is incorporated.
  • September 2010 – Chieftain Metals purchases the Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull mines. Chieftain accepts the environmental liabilities associated with the historical acid mine drainage as part of the purchase price.
  • December 2011 – Chieftain Metals completes the installation of an Interim Water Treatment Plant at the Tulsequah Chief mine. The Interim Water Treatment Plant begins operation.
  • April 12, 2012 – Chieftain announces receipt of the Discharge Permit for the Interim Water Treatment Plant.


Sources include:

  • Environment Minister David Anderson and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Geoff Regan written responses to a petition by citizens of Atlin, BC, 2/12/04.
  • Environment Canada: Response To Environmental Petition No. 958 Under Section 22 of The Auditor General Act Petitioners: Ms. Nicole Lischewski And Ms. Nan Love, 11/30/05.
  • Overview of Mines Act Application: Pre-Construction Site Cleanup, Redcorp Ventures, September 27, 2007.
  • Redcorp bankruptcy documents on KPMG website (, including Affidavit 4 of Terry Chandler of Redcorp 5/21/09 and Affidavit #1 from Wade Comin of Environment Canada 5/25/09.


Acid Mine Drainage and Cleanup Overview

Chris Zimmer : May 18.2007

May 2007:  When Cominco abandoned the Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull mines in the 1950’s it never cleaned up the toxic legacy of acid mine drainage and heavy metals. Since then these two mine sites have poured tons of these poisons into the waters of the salmon-rich Taku watershed. Redcorp Ventures now owns the two mines and is thus responsible for cleanup. But Redcorp seems more interested in re-opening the Tulsequah Chief mine  then in stopping the pollution and Canadian federal and British Columbia provincial regulatory agencies are letting them get away with this.

Click here for more information. 

Acid Mine Drainage data

Chris Zimmer : May 18.2007

This memo provides calculations for the annual amount of toxic heavy metals that leak into the Taku Watershed from the Tulsequah Chief mine.  This is the latest data we have.  Repeated requests for more recent and comprehensive information have been repeatedly denied by Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, BC and Redcorp. 

Click here for the full memo.

Environment Canada Cleanup Extension letter

Chris Zimmer : May 18.2007

Click here to see the letter in which Environment Canada agreed to extend Redcorp’s deadline for Acid Mine Drainage cleanup. 

Chronology of Cleanup Orders and Actions

Chris Zimmer : May 18.2007

This chronology lists important actions and events related to the Acid Mine Drainage problem at the Tulsequah Chief and Big Bull mine sites from 1957 to date.  It demonstrates a history of lax enforcement of laws designed to prevent pollution from mine sites. 

Click here for the full chronology. 

Unuk River Backgrounder

webmaster : Mar 3.2007

Click here to Download [PDF]

Taku River Backgrounder

webmaster : Mar 3.2001

Click here to download [PDF]