Public consultation on Tulsequah Chief reluctantly sought

The BC government’s Environmental Assessment Office has posted a 210-page report on an acid-leaking mine just days before two scheduled public…

The BC government’s Environmental Assessment Office has posted a 210-page report on an acid-leaking mine just days before two scheduled public reviews of the project.

The environmental assessment of the Tulsequah Chief mine project is to be discussed in Whitehorse on Tuesday and in Atlin on Wednesday.

However, Redcorp Ventures Ltd.’s report on its mine project wasn’t made available until Wednesday.

This only gives Whitehorse citizens four business days to read it.

“I can never understand why they rush through these things,” said Rivers Without Borders executive director David MacKinnon.

“If public concerns are actually an issue, then why don’t they give the public adequate time to digest the information?”

Rivers Without Borders has been calling for a clean-up of the Tulsequah Chief mine since 2000.

The mine closed in 1957, but was never properly decommissioned.

In 1989, the BC government discovered “considerable acid generation” that was “acutely toxic” to fish was leaking into the Taku watershed from the mine. As a result, it issued a pollution abatement order.

Redcorp bought the sites in the 1990s and attempted to deal with the pollution by building dams and a treatment plant.

Environment Canada inspectors found that the fixes weren’t adequate, and Redcorp has said that they are unable to do anything more until the mine is reopened.

The consultation process is being pushed through quickly in order to help Redcorp meet its deadlines, said MacKinnon.

“They’re doing another off-the-cuff effort to tick their box in terms of public consultation.”

The report was supposed to be made available at the Whitehorse public library, but is still hasn’t arrived, he said.

“They’re not giving the public a real chance to know what’s going on.”

Redcorp lost $50 million of its investors’ money in the US sub-prime mortgage markets.

To restore investor confidence, quick progress with the mine is very important to the corporation, said MacKinnon.

“And the BC government has been behaving like a co-proponent on this, instead of a regulatory body.”

The document in question is the second draft of a report by Redcorp on its plans for the mine.

The first draft was tabled in May, but the British Columbian, Canadian and Alaskan governments demanded more information from Redcorp.

“It seems to me that there’s a lot of information that still isn’t on the table,” said MacKinnon.

Redcorp is planning to use an air-cushioned barge, which will be towed by an Amphitrac, a new vehicle that is still in the design stage.

“I can’t find any design specs for this new machine that is going to be driving like a tractor up and down the Taku River,” said MacKinnon.

“I’m also curious to see how they’ll deal with the breakup of the Taku River ice all winter, using these hoverbarges, which are some of the most effective ice breakers in the world.”

In a situation where wildlife uses the river as a travel corridor, MacKinnon wonders whether that is going to be a problem.

The consultations will be held at the Yukon Inn in Whitehorse, and the Atlin Recreation Centre.

Both public hearings will run from 3 to 9 p.m. 

“It’s very important that the northern public get out,” said MacKinnon.

“We need to let the folks in BC know that the public wants to be heard on this issue.”