Senior Alaskan politicians say U.S. federal and state agencies are ramping up their efforts to force B.C. to clean up the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine, about 80 kilometres south of Atlin.
Dan Sullivan, one of Alaska’s two U.S. senators, and the state’s Lt.-Gov. Byron Mallot were in Ottawa Monday for a series of meetings with Canadian officials, including federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna.
Mallot said there will be more meetings on transboundary issues in April. “Hopefully this will continue to create the kind of focus on the Tulsequah Chief mine that we raised in the last two years,” said Mallot. “Recognizing that the mine had been spewing water — waste water — for almost half a century, and we’ve got this focused at a level now that has never been focused on before,” he said. Acid drainage from the idle Tulseqhah Chief mine flows into the Tulsequah River, and then the Taku River and down to Juneau, Alaska, less than 50 kilometres away. Sen. Sullivan said the U.S. State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are now much more engaged in transboundary water issues on the B.C.-Alaska border.
“There’s either mines that have been in operation, mines that have unfortunately been abandoned and are polluting the area, or mines that are in development,” he said. Sullivan said the Alaskans are looking for several things from the B.C.
They want a say in B.C.’s environmental permitting for development on rivers that flow into Alaska, and they want financial security to compensate downstream users like the commercial fishery and tourism operators if there’s an environmental disaster.
They also want a joint water monitoring program and the immediate reclamation of the Tulsequah Chief mine.