Transboundary Watershed Alliance Calls For Bi-National Assessment of Taku Mine: Fishery Too Valuable for Experiment With Unproven Technology

Transboundary Watershed Alliance

(Whitehorse, Yukon, and Juneau, Alaska) The Transboundary Watershed Alliance (TWA) has called upon authorities in British Columbia, Alaska, and at the federal level in Canada and the United States to undertake a full, open, and public binational environmental assessment of the new development proposal for the Tulsequah Chief project in northwest British Columbia. On January 29th, 2007, Redcorp Ventures unveiled a development proposal for the Tulsequah Chief mine, abandoning previous plans for a 100 mile/160 kilometre access road from Atlin, but introducing new and previously unassessed elements including an 8 km road to a barge loading facility and a proposal to “air cushion barge” metal concentrates from that facility down the Taku River to Juneau. The proposal is dramatically different from the previous proposal and would bring more direct impacts on the salmon-rich lower Taku River.

“There is a real opportunity now for this project proposal to receive the scrutiny and oversight that it warrants,” said TWA Executive Director, David MacKinnon. “Previous assessments by British Columbia and Canada were focused on project approval rather than protection of the existing economic and ecosystem values in the Taku.”

Chris Zimmer in the Juneau office of the TWA said: “We’re going to work hard to ensure that Juneau and Alaska citizens have a real voice in this new assessment. Over 99% of public comments in the Canadian assessment of this project were either outright opposed to or expressed serious concerns about the Tulsequah Chief project. Those comments, including a great many from Alaskans, were ignored. Redcorp’s new proposal requires Alaskan assent, so Governor Pallin needs to protect Juneau’s commercial and recreational interests in the Taku by working with Canada to establish a bi-national review process looking at the whole watershed.”

The new proposal includes the following elements that were not looked at in the previous assessment:

  • Construction of a 10 kilometre haul route down the salmon-rich Tulsequah River from the proposed minesite to a landing site on the mainstem Taku River for loading and unloading barges.
  • Hauling of metal concentrates down the Taku River and then Taku Inlet to Juneau.
  • Use of new Air Cushion Barge (ACB) technology to handle very large loads of concentrate on-river.
  • Use of new and untested amphitrac amphibious vessels to tow the ACBs.
  • Extensive mine-related river traffic through areas currently used by the Alaskan commercial fishing fleet.
  • The potential for catastrophic spills of mineral concentrates into the salmon-rich Taku river or Taku inlet.
  • Clear indications that the proposal will lead to development of nearby mining prospects, extending and compounding environmental impacts in the watershed.

The lower Taku hosts a commercial and recreational fisheries worth over $8 million annually to the communities of Juneau and Atlin according Juneau’s McDowell Group.

The Transboundary Watershed Alliance has a membership of over 20 conservation organizations in British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska. We work to sustain the diversity and abundance of fish and wildlife species and their habitat in the transboundary watersheds of Canada and Southeast Alaska and to encourage the adoption of long-term conservation-based planning to ensure the survival of these magnificent river systems.

For further information please contact:
David MacKinnon, Executive Director, Transboundary Watershed Alliance (604) 809-5098
Chris Zimmer, US Field Coordinator, Transboundary Watershed Alliance (907) 586-4905