Executive Summary of the Tulsequah Chief Mine Public Information Session December 5, 2001 Juneau, Alaska Representatives of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) and resource agencies from British Columbia, Canada, met with the public in Juneau, Alaska, on December 5, 2001, to discuss the Tulsequah Chief Mine Project proposal. The purpose of the meeting was to present information about the project and answer questions so that the public could obtain information to assist them in preparing written comments to EAO as part of the project assessment process. The meeting agenda is attached. This report summarizes the main points presented and information exchanged at the meeting. The meeting was not a public hearing. However, this report and a more detailed (not verbatim) transcript of the meeting will be considered part of the record on this project. Additional current information about the project and the assessment process is available at www.eao.gov.bc.ca Staff from British Columbia (B.C.), the State of Alaska and the United States (U.S.) agencies and other members of the project review committee in attendance at the meeting included:
Daphne Stancil, B.C. Environmental Assessment Office Jim Hofweber, B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection Garry Alexander, B.C. Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management Wally Bergen, B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines Kerry Howard, Alaska Division of Governmental Coordination Sharmon Stambaugh, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Kim Obermeyer, Alaska Department of Fish and Game Chris Meade, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Doug Dobyns, formerly with Douglas Indian Association Opening Statement by the State of Alaska
In opening remarks, Mr. Pat Galvin, Director of the Alaska Division of Governmental Coordination, stated that Alaska has major concerns about the proposed project, as documented in a letter to the project committee on October 24, 2001. Given the number of unresolved environmental issues associated with the project, the State again asks B.C. to join the State of Alaska and the U.S. government in a bi-national comprehensive plan for the Taku River watershed before actions irrevocably change the watershed. The State believes that through this comprehensive planning, working families in Canada can benefit from responsible development within the Taku river watershed while still protecting the fishery resources
upon which so many fishing families in Alaska and Canada depend. The U.S. State Department has supported Alaska in this request. Summary of Reconvened Project Assessment Process
The B.C. government is coordinating a review under the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act (BCEAA) of Redfern Resources, Ltd.’s proposal to reopen the Tulsequah Chief Mine. The mine, closed since the 1950’s, is located on the Tulsequah River in the Taku River watershed in northwest B.C. The Taku River drains into the State of Alaska. The company is proposing to resume mining at the site and to remediate existing acid mine drainage that is adversely affecting water quality. Ms. Daphne Stancil, of the EAO described the status of the project assessment process. In the mid1990's, the EAO convened a project review committee to evaluate the Tulsequah Chief Mine proposal, including representatives of the B.C., Canadian and Yukon governments, the United States and State of Alaska governments, and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN). In 1998, following an earlier environmental assessment for this project, B.C. Ministers issued a project approval certificate under the BCEAA – clearing the way for the permitting process to begin. The TRTFN raised concerns about unresolved issues and, eventually, took the issue to court. In July 2000, the Court ordered the EAO to reconvene the project committee to address discuss these issues. The project committee was reconvened in 2000 and has been continuing its assessment of the project, including new information that has become available since the earlier review. The EAO expects to submit an amended recommendation report in early 2002 to the B.C. Ministers of Sustainable Resource Management and of Energy and Mines. The project committee is considering new and existing information about water quality and fisheries, as well as information related to mine access, mitigation measures, monitoring and approaches to assessing sustainability and cumulative effects. Comments on the new information being considered by the project review committee are due to the EAO on January 7, 2002. Summary of Water Quality and Fisheries Information
Mr. Jim Hofweber, of the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, presented information regarding water quality issues associated with the mine. Mr. Hofweber emphasized that there is a current, significant acid mine drainage problem at the mine site that must be remediated. The Redfern Resources, Ltd., proposal would effectively remediate the drainage by using a paste backfill, comprised of tailings generated once mining resumed, to plug the underground workings. If the project is not approved, the B.C. government will ask the project proponent to prepare a new report on alternative remediation techniques. The 1998 project assessment concluded that water quality discharge issues associated with the mine
could be effectively addressed through project permitting. The State of Alaska and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would be full partners in the B.C. permitting process. The most stringent water quality criteria of the various jurisdictions would be applied during permitting. There are exceedances of water quality criteria for lead and copper in samples taken from the Taku River at the U.S./Canada border – which are due in part to the Tulsequah mine site drainage and in part due to natural causes. As proposed, the project would improve water quality at the border, since it would remediate the drainage problem. Mr. Kim Obermeyer, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, presented information about fishery resources in the Tulsequah River drainage collected during sampling since the fall of 2000. The main objective of the study was to document important fish rearing and spawning habitat in the main stem of the Tulsequah River, especially near the mine site. This qualitative (not quantitative) sampling program was done in cooperation with the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the TRTFN. Sampling was done in fall and winter of 2000 and 2001, and in the summer of 2001. The studies found more widespread use of the Tulsequah River by fish than reported earlier by the project proponent. The Tulsequah River provides high value fish habitat throughout the flood plain. There is overwintering habitat critical to coho salmon and Dolly Varden. The Tulsequah River main stem provides important spawning habitat for sockeye, coho and chum salmon. The study is also analyzing sediment samples to determine how flooding events may effect fish habitat in the floodplain. Mr. Douglas Dobyns, formerly of the Douglas Indian Association, also presented information regarding water quality monitoring in the Tulsequah River drainage. His data collection focused on the mechanics and relationship of water flow and water quality effected by routine, periodic flooding of the drainage during "jokulhlaup" events. Public Comments and Questions
The following concerns, issues and questions were raised by the public during the meeting: General Issues ●
Concern is noted that the project proponent is not in attendance.
Concerns are stated that remediation is only now being required, after 40 years of acid mine drainage. Statements are made that mine discharge should be treated and remediated without resuming mining. British Columbia Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection staff note that treating the acid mine drainage would likely require the same mine site infrastructure and site development as
reopening the mine site. Water Quality ●
Where would the disposal site for excess tailings be and would this be a source of future water pollution? British Columbia staff note that the project does include a tailings pond for tailings not used as backfill. The mill circuit will remove pyrite from the tailings, which is the source of acid mine drainage. Tailings disposed of on the surface will not create acid mine drainage. Concerns are mentioned regarding potential for long-term leaching from the tailings disposal pond.
Fishery Resources ●
Statements are made that coho salmon production was seriously effected by mining at the Tulsequah mine site in the 1950’s, and has rebounded. Concern noted that this resource will again be put at risk and populations depressed if mining resumes. Statement is made that Canada would likely object if the State of Alaska was proposing to permit a mine in Alaska that could adversely affect a Canadian fishery. Concern is stated that metals will be transported from the site during high water flows and deposited in important fish habitat in side channels of the Tulsequah River. EAO staff note that this issue is being investigated through sediment sampling in these areas. Results are pending.
Mine Access ●
Concerns are stated regarding effects of the proposed mine access road on fish resources (stream crossings, fish passage, inadequate stream buffers and sedimentation) and the sustainability of the watershed, especially if the road fosters additional development in the watershed. Statements are made that the road would foster additional development.
Watershed Issues ●
Statements are made that the Tulsequah River watershed is one of the last intact watersheds in the Pacific Northwest, with very high resource values. The sustainability of all Taku-Tulsequah watershed resources must be given consideration in the decision for this relatively short-term mining project.
Project Assessment and Permitting ●
Questions asked regarding B.C. requirements for financial responsibility for remediation and damage compensation. EAO staff explain that performance bonding would be required. There is an existing $1.25 million bond for remediation at the site now. Concerns are stated regarding the project proponent’s financial capability to operate and
remediate the mine properly. Why has Canada not favored referring this project review to an International Joint Commission? EAO staff respond that Canada believes that there is already significant cooperation between Alaska/U.S. and Canada/B.C., that a joint Environmental Cooperation Council is proposed, and that an IJC involvement would not significantly improve this collaboration during project assessment and permitting. Concerns are stated that Alaska/U.S. participation in the project assessment and permitting process must be meaningful and effective. EAO staff note that Alaska and the U.S. government have been invited to be full participants in all aspects of the assessment and permit process. However, B.C. has the responsibility to issue approvals and permits and cannot delegate that responsibility.
The EAO, with assistance of the project review committee, is planning to complete the assessment process, including review of new information, and submit an amended recommendations report to the Ministers of Sustainable Resource Management and of Energy and Mines by early 2002. Public comments on the information being considered by the project review committee are due to the EAO by January 7, 2002. Comments can be mailed to the EAO at P.O. Box 9426, St. Prov. Govt., Victoria, B.C., V8W 9V1, Attn: Judith Carter, or e-mailed to [email protected]
Attachment-December 5, 2001 agenda TULSEQUAH CHIEF COPPER/GOLD/LEAD/ZINC MINE PUBLIC INFORMATION SESSION December 5, 2001 7:00-10:00 p.m. Treadwell Room Baranof Hotel Juneau, Alaska
Introductions: Kerry Howard, Division of Governmental Coordination Welcome: Sheinberg Associates, Facilitators
Agenda: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Review of Agenda Summary of Reconvened Process and Status-Daphne Stancil Summary of Water Quality and Fisheries Information- Jim Hofweber Next Steps- Daphne Stancil Questions and Answers
Daphne Stancil, Environmental Assessment Office Garry Alexander, Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management Wally Bergen, Ministry of Energy and Mines Jim Hofweber, Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection Written Comment Deadline: January 7, 2002 Send Comments to: Environmental Assessment Office
PO Box 9426 Stn Prov Govt Victoria, BC V8W 9V1 Attention: Judith Carder