The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) proposed mine is a massive project comprised of four deposits that would be mined as a combined open-pit and underground block-cave mine. The proposed operation is so big it would straddle two watersheds – the Unuk and the Nass – in two locations connected by twin 23-km (14 mile) long tunnels – extending under a glacier – which would transport miners and ore between the pits, and the mill and tailings impoundment. It is expected to process between 120,000 to 180,000 tonnes of ore per day over a mine life of 55 years. Opposition to the project has increased, with some analysts comparing it to the proposed Pebble Project in southwest Alaska.
Significant risks include:
- Unfavorable economics – KSM’s low grade ore, remote location and lack of infrastructure make its economics problematic according to analysts.
- Mining under glaciers has seldom been tried and is difficult – Very few mining companies have attempted it for a mine of this size, and significant operational challenges have occurred when they have, including tragic consequences.
- Unprecedented water management – KSM would need to process almost 21 BILLION gallons of water per year compared to Pebble’s proposed 13 billion and the Bingham Canyon mine’s 3 billion gallons per year.
- Legal uncertainties – the twin tunnels run under property claimed by two other companies who are currently suing each other. Both contest Seabridge’s access rights. First Nations also have concerns about the project.
- International opposition – KSM is opposed by eleven U.S. federally recognized tribes, and southeast Alaska’s billion-dollar commercial fishing industry.
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CHRONOLOGY OF ACID MINE DRAINAGE CLEANUP ORDERS, INSPECTIONS AND COMPANY RESPONSES FOR TULSEQUAH CHIEF AND BIG BULL MINES
- 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.
- 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 (www.kpmg.ca/en/ms/cl/redcorp/), including Affidavit 4 of Terry Chandler of Redcorp 5/21/09 and Affidavit #1 from Wade Comin of Environment Canada 5/25/09.
In a report commissioned by 15 environmental organisations, including Forest Ethics, CPAWS, David Suzuki Foundation, and West Coast Environmental Law, senior scientist, Jim Pojar, addresses both loss of biodiversity and a strategy for climate action. He calls on the BC government to maintain "intact forest systems, such that 50% of BC’s land base is managed with conservation as the priority goal. He asserts that doing so will "help prevent the release of greenhouse gases, ensure sufficient intact habitats to support healthy numbers of wild species, and help plants and animals adapt to climate change impacts."
Download the full report from Forest Ethics.
This article from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife discusses many aspects of salmon and trout, and their relationship to the surrounding terrestrial ecosystem.
Excerpt: "Anadromous salmon play an important role in maintaining an ecosystem’s productivity. The seasonal migrations of millions of salmon between Pacific rim streams and the subarctic Pacific Ocean appear to increase overall terrestrial productivity. Key processes discussed here are the transport of materials, energy and nutrients between marine, aquatic, and terrestrial ecosystems with emphasis on salmon as a transport vector."
Alaska Department of Fish and Game Memo on the Tulsequah Chief Mine Air Cushion Barge Transportation Systemwebmaster : Dec 18.2007
Prepared by Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commercial Fish/ Sport Fish Staff on December 5, 2007
This memo was submitted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game critiquing the proposal to operate a hoverbarge on the Taku River. It was submitted shortly before the Alaskan permitting process was set to commence late in 2007.
Prepared by Pape and Salter, Barrister and solicitors for the Transboundary Watershed Alliance (2004)
On November 18th 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its decision in the Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. British Columbia case. For the Tlingits, this case was another stage in their ongoing struggle to protect their Aboriginal rights and way of life – in this case from the effects of Redfern’s proposal to reopen the Tulsequah Chief mine by building an industrial highway through the heart of the Tlingits’ traditional territory.
Click here to download the Decision Summary [PDF]
Prepared by Department of Fisheries and Oceans for (12.03.2004)
Click here to download part 1 [PDF] and part 2 [PDF]
Environmental Effects of a Mining Road Through the Traditional Territories of the Taku River Tlingit First Nationwebmaster : Nov 6.2004
Prepared for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation by the Independent Science Pannel (11.06.2004)
A Critique of Proposed Management Plans for a New Mining Road.
Click here to download the report [PDF]
An Economic Profile of the Taku River Area. Prepared for the United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters by the McDowell Group (09.2004)
The purpose of this study is to provide a detailed inventory and economic assessment of the major business and recreational activities currently occurring in the Taku River area. The Taku River watershed hosts a diverse range of commercial and recreational activities that benefit the residents of both Southeast Alaska and British Columbia.
Click here to download the McDowell Report [PDF]
Prepared for the Transboundary Watershed Alliance by Ecofish Research Ltd. (10.21.2004)
“… The objective of this work is to was to examine the proponent’s work and DFO correspondence to determine whether the impacts have been properly identified and addressed within the context of the fisheries act.”
Click here to download the EcoFish Report [PDF]