Cleanup ceases at Tulsequah Chief

Chieftain Metals Inc.'s recent closure of its water treatment plant at the Tulsequah Chief mine site near Atlin, B.C., has attracted the ire of conservationists.

Chieftain Metals Inc.‘s recent closure of its water treatment plant at the Tulsequah Chief mine site near Atlin, B.C., has attracted the ire of conservationists.

Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders has opposed the project from the beginning. He sees this development as “the last straw” in the company’s involvement with the mine.

“This is the final indicator that this just isn’t a viable mine,” he said, explaining that the project has faced a “host of roadblocks.”

The water treatment plant was installed in November to address problems of acid run-off in the historic mine. It became operational in January.

In April the company received a discharge permit. According to the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, discharge from the plant has met water quality standards.

On June 6, the company wrote Environment Canada informing them of their decision to suspend plant operations. The plant uses too much cleanup chemicals, produces too much sludge and costs too much to staff, the company asserts.

Present operating costs greatly exceed the company’s original forecasts. In mid-June, representatives from the company met with the ministry to discuss their intent to shut down the plant. Operations stopped on June 22.

Representatives of Chieftain Metals were not available for comment. President and CEO Victor Wyprysky said in a press release at the time of the receipt of the permit that the water treatment plant demonstrates the “high importance (the company) places on community and stakeholder concerns.”

Zimmer is not convinced, and said the company has suspended operations largely due to insufficient finances. In 2009 the company estimated the plant’s annual operating costs at $1,077,069. Current annual costs are $4,352,808.

That’s no surprise, said Zimmer. He thought the company was “on [its] last legs.” In March, they posted a quarterly loss of over $5 million, and have consistently lost money since June 30, 2010.

Beyond financial concerns, stopping operations at the treatment plant violates the company’s B.C. Environmental Management Act permit. They have provided a review of the project and revised their operating plans and forecasts. Yet the ministry says it has not yet seen a plan to bring the company back into compliance with its permit.

Zimmer also expressed concerns about how this will influence the region’s aquatic life.

“(I) don’t think we’re looking at an imminent natural disaster,” he said. Still, he worries about how the plant’s closure will affect the fish downstream from the site. Acid from the historic mine has proven toxic to the area’s juvenile fish, and the site is located in the middle of prime salmon territory. He believes the solution to cleaning the old mining site requires participation on both sides of the Alaska-British Columbia border.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speak at a COVID-19 update press conference in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. On Nov. 24, Silver and Hanley announced masks will be mandatory in public places as of Dec. 1, and encouraged Yukoners to begin wearing masks immediately. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Masks mandatory in public places starting on Dec. 1

“The safe six has just got a plus one,” Silver said.

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read