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Chieftain to shut down Tulsequah mine water treatment plant

Posted: July 1, 2012 - 12:10am

Chieftain Metals, LLC has announced it will temporarily cease water treatment at its Tulsequah Chief Mine while it secures funds. The company said cost overruns precipitated the shut down.

The mine is located on the Tulsequah River near where it connects with the Taku River, approximately 40 mile northeast of Juneau on the British Columbia side of the Taku River system (goo.gl/wqjNU).

Chieftain chief operating officer Keith Boyle signed a letter to Inspector Wade Comin with Environment Canada’s Yukon Environmental Enforcement Division, dated June 6.

“In conclusion we cannot continue the (Interim Water Treatment Plant) operations,” according to Chieftain’s letter.

Chieftain said in its letter that it plans to restart its water treatment plant “as soon as process optimization is complete and project funding is secured.”

Chieftain said in a press release Friday that the treatment facility is less efficient than designed “with higher than budgeted operating costs.” The company said it “anticipates a period of limited operations.” Which would increase, Chieftain said, “when project financing is secured and the Tulsequah project gets underway as always contemplated in the project plan.”

Chieftain’s stock (TSX: CFB) ended Friday up slightly.

The treatment plant has operated since December 2011. Before that mine runoff at Tulsequah Chief went directly into the Taku River, creating a 1,000-foot plume of pollution, Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director for Rivers Without Borders said. Zimmer said he isn’t as concerned about the immediate danger if Tulsequah’s runoff ends up in the river.

“But what are the chronic affects,” Zimmer said.

In its letter, Chieftain listed four actions in its shut down process. Staff is cut to four before the company beings a staged shut-down of the facility.

Chieftain described the shutdown as, “Planned and orderly,” with “a view to re-starting the plant smoothly and efficiently.”

The shutdown of Chieftain’s $9 million interim water treatment plant results in ”a period of non-compliance with the conditions of Waste Water Discharge Permit #105719.” The permit is part of requirements under Canada’s Capitol Regional District sewer use bylaws.

Chieftain said it continues optimization studies at the treatment facility and plans to pursue a permit to deposit sludge at nearby Rogers Flat.

Juneau’s legislative delegation formed a fact-finding task force in response to Chieftain’s barging efforts on the Taku River (goo.gl/mSwHZ, goo.gl/60dsg, goo.gl/6rwpI, goo.gl/eDvfs).

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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