Update (2-2-11): A link to a Yukon News story on the Tulsequah Mine – http://yukon-news.com/business/21438/ .
In early June (’10) I took a quick overnight trip into Canada, 60 miles up the Taku River to the confluence of the Tulsequah River, and continued on to the Tulsequah Chief Mine (TCM) site with Ed Shanley. Ed’s family has had a cabin on Canyon Island, one of the last properties before the border, for decades. Ed’s knowledge and connection to the area go back to his childhood, and made him a perfect guide for the trip.
The Tuslequah Chief Mine with ore deposits of copper, lead, zinc, gold, and silver started production in 1951 and lasted until 1957; when it closed due to low mineral prices. The mine and its buildings were abandoned and left to rot, with no pollution abatement for the Acid Mine Drainage(AMD) run-off coming straight from the mine and flowing into the Tulsequah River. In 1989 Cominco, the owner of the mine was ordered to cleanup the site and provide adequate retaining/treatment ponds for the AMD going into river. Cominco dodged its responsibilities to cleanup the site until it sold its mineral rights to Redcorp Ventures Ltd. whose goal was to reopen the mine and either build a road to Atlin B.C. or build an as yet untested and unproven hover barge to transport the ore down the Taku River. Redcorp developed an extensive road from the TCM site to the confluence of the Tuslequah and Taku rivers. All the while taking few, if any, steps to mitigate the ongoing pollution into the adjacent river. The company went bankrupt in 2009, pulled out all its equipment and sold off assets to repay debtors, with little to no cleanup of the site. The B.C. government has not forced any cleanup of the site and has been delinquent in requiring owners of the site to stop the ongoing pollution into what would otherwise be a pristine river system.
Ed and I went to the mine site with the goal of documenting it in its current state and to see first hand the level of pollution taking place. We brought mountain bikes to allow us to cover the most terrain possible, using the relatively new road built by the now defunct Redcorp. We biked the gravel and dirt road from end to end; 14 miles of switchbacks and meandering rises and drops along the eastern bank of the Tulsequah River. The ride ended at the confluence of the Tulsequah and Taku rivers where the mine had created a staging area and barracks for the miners. The site was abandoned leaving buildings, vehicles, mattresses, exercise machines, and office equipment presumably to be reclaimed by the next owner.
As of late April of this year the former CEO of Redfern Corp. has reorganized under a new entity called Chieftain Metals Inc. which ostensibly will be the same company just under a new guise, due to the previous corporation’s lack of assets and inability to live up to debts and financial obligations, like cleaning up the mine site.
The goal of this project is two fold:
1. Help to pressure any new developer and the B.C. government to cleanup the site before any further development of the site goes forward.
2. Raise awareness of the importance of the Taku River watershed and its tributaries. Ideally through a documentation of the fisheries on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the border, and a river float of the Taku from its upper headwaters to document the ecosystem.
The Taku River is home to all 5 species of Pacific Salmon, brown bears, moose, eagles, and many other species that call Southeast Alaska and British Columbia home. There is no excuse for the wanton pollution over the past 50 years of the natal salmon streams of the Taku watershed. The Alaskan and B.C. governments have an obligation to protect and preserve a resource that will in perpetuity continue to support native cultures, commercial fisheries, and tourism. The Tulsequah Chief Mine is a cancerous wound on the landscape and an ecosystem that if left alone will continue to pollute the environment, degrade and impact the future of the region, and impede the health of an otherwise healthy and sustainable fishery.