B.C. developing remediation plan for Tulsequah Chief mine

The B.C. government is making good on its pledge to take responsibility for an abandoned mine that has been leaking acidic water into nearby rivers for the past 50 years.

The B.C. government is making good on its pledge to take responsibility for an abandoned mine that has been leaking acidic water into nearby rivers for the past 50 years.

After an inspection last September at the Tulsequah Chief mine south of Atlin, the province started developing a remediation plan, B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett told the News on Tuesday.

“I’ve ordered a closure and remediation plan to be done with the proceeds we have in trust from the bankrupt company,” Bennett said.

The mine was never properly shut down after several years of mining in the 1950s, resulting in acid mine drainage — acidic water and metals — flowing out of the mine.

Two mining companies tried successively to restart production but both went bankrupt, the latest being Chieftain Metals Inc. last September.

While the remediation plan is being developed, Bennett said the province has to wait to see what the creditors that still have legal rights to the mine will do.

“We can’t just suddenly get rid of their legal rights without due process,” Bennett said. “I’m prepared to close and remediate that site if no other company comes in and accepts the responsibility.”

The September inspection reports found that the camp near the mine was left for the most part unsecured.

“Theft and vandalism is a potential concern given the site is relatively accessible and there is no caretaker on site,” the report reads.

Inspectors also found exposed chemicals at the abandoned water treatment plant.

As part of its water licence Chieftain Metals had to treat water flowing out of the mine before releasing it, which it did for six months in 2012 before shutting down citing higher than anticipated costs.

“The risk those chemicals could have leaked or gotten into the natural environment has been eliminated,” Bennett said.

The exfiltration pond, which used a filter cloth to capture sludge, isn’t working anymore: the filter is likely clogged, with water flowing out of the pond into the river.

“There is significant concern that the pond is not being properly managed and may pose a risk if not immediately mitigated,” the report reads.

Alaska environmentalists including Rivers Without Borders (RWB) have been calling on B.C. for years to remediate and close the mine.

Bennett acknowledged it was a “bad situation” that both B.C. and Alaska inherited because the mine was built before any remediation legislation was put in place.

But he took issue with claims the mine was contaminating the Taku and Tulsequah rivers.

“We’ve been testing the water for at least 10 years,” he said. “The river or the fish are not suffering environmental damage in the meantime.”

The water that comes out of the mine is highly toxic, according to the inspection report.

But because of its relatively small volume, it’s not harming the fish or the river, Bennett said.

“The amount of water in the Tulsequah and Taku river(s) is so large it’s immediately diluted and there is no trace of it,” he said.

But Chris Zimmer, RWB’s Alaska campaign director, said Bennett can’t back up his claims.

“While we’re not claiming it’s been a major serious killer of fish, there is no way the minister has evidence to say it’s not affecting the river,” he said.

“Just because we don’t see a whole bunch of dead fish belly up floating down the river doesn’t mean this discharge isn’t harming the fish population in the river.”

Leaving the acidic water flowing out of the mine isn’t not a long-term solution, Bennet said.

“If we take that step (of closing it) we’ll make sure that it’s done properly and that you have something that lasts forever.”

An assessment of the risks to water and fish that Chieftain Metals was supposed to do before it went bankrupt will be done next spring and summer.

“The findings from the study will determine whether or to what extent mine effluent may be impacting the environment and provide a foundation for next steps,” according to the B.C. environment ministry website.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

From jazz to metal: Arts in the Park kicks off May 21

Jazz, folk, metal all part of 2019 lineup

Not enough is being done to support the mental health needs of LGBTQ2S+ people: report

Advocacy organization Qmunity has made 70 recommendations to the Yukon government

Lane closure could impact restaurant’s plans to expand deck

Whitehorse city staff to look for solution to help both businesses

Two women charged with first-degree murder in 2017 Pelly Crossing homicide

Charabelle Maureen Silverfox, 27, and Lynzee Harriott Silverfox, 21, were arrested May 16.

EDITORIAL: Yes, even killers deserve due process

No one benefits when the Yukon government is focused on denying it uses solitary confinement

Record turnout for Tour de Haines Junction cycling stage race

The field of 21 riders is the largest in the history of the event

Olympic opportunity for Yukon athletes at RBC Training Ground event

“At this age group, it’s just about saying yes to opportunities. Go out. Try it out, if you like it.”

Commentary: Mining for clean energy

The infrastructure for clean energy requires mining

Whitehorse city news, briefly

A summary of some of the decisions made at the May 13 council meeting

Indoor Archery Championship includes best from across the Yukon

The 7th Indoor Archery Yukon Championship was May 5 at Tahkini Elementary… Continue reading

No time to stop and smell the flowers at the 2019 Crocus Run

Thirty-four runners raced an eight-kilometre loop along Riverdale trails teeming with crocuses

Polarettes take on the Delta invitational

It was a busy weekend at the Richmond Olympic Oval in Richmond,… Continue reading

Most Read