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Taku River Tlingit withdraws all support for Tulsequah mine

Posted: September 17, 2012 - 9:43pm  |  Updated: September 18, 2012 - 12:05am
Drainage runs out of the Tulsequah Chief mine and down to holding ponds next to the Tulsequah River in November, 2009.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Drainage runs out of the Tulsequah Chief mine and down to holding ponds next to the Tulsequah River in November, 2009.

After recently withdrawing its representatives from the environmental review process for Chieftain Metal’s road project, the Taku River Tlingit First Nations this month withdrew support for all government approval for the Tulsequah Chief Mine.

The Taku Tlingit said in a Sept. 10 release there will be no support for the mine project until Chieftain restores full operation of its water treatment plant at Tulsequah Chief and submits an updated feasibility study.

Chieftain CEO Victor Wyprysky said in a recent email interview that the Taku Tlingit announcement would have no impact on the company’s efforts to develop the mine.

“We are proceeding,” Wyprysky said. However, he did not answer later questions about the company’s potential options for road access going forward.

In a press release dated Sept. 13, Wyprysky said Chieftain has received all major permits to begin construction. The company had applied for an amendment to its original road route to reduce the overall length of the road by nearly 22 miles, avoid several stream crossings and caribou habitat and bypass a heritage trail. The amendment has not been approved.

If approved “…this amendment should help facilitate the project further by incorporating the road route that best aligns with the interests of stakeholders," according to Chieftain's release.

Chieftain installed its $9 million water treatment plant in Nov. 2011 to address historic acid mine drainage leaching into the nearby Tulsequah and Taku rivers. The company is in violation of its mine drainage discharge permit. Chieftain acquired the plant from it previous owner, Redfern Resources Ltd.

In June, Chieftain said “…the plant has been operating below designed levels of efficiency, with higher than budgeted operating costs.”

Chieftain had been in negotiations with the Taku Tlingit on a roadway to the mine site through First Nation land. The route would have traveled south from Atlin, British Columbia to the mine in the Tulsequah Valley. At a meeting of the Taku River Task Force in January, Chieftain assured the task force its investors expected a road route to the mine, not a barge route up the Taku River. Juneau’s legislative delegation convened the task force in response to the potential barging activities of Chieftain.

Chieftain Metals (CFB.TO) closed on the Toronto Stock Exchange at 2.68, Monday, up from a year low of 2.30 on Sept. 13.

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

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