Cost/benefit on the Taku

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, January 16, 2004

Any important matter merits a cost/benefit analysis prior to making a decision. This is certainly true regarding the proposed mining development on the Canadian side of the Taku River watershed.

Redfern Resources hopes to reopen the Tulsequah Chief mine and has convinced the British Columbia government to support this undertaking. They are now seeking permits from the Canadian federal government in Ottawa. One can only assume that Redfern has done a cost/benefit analysis and has decided that the benefits to its own business interests outweigh the associated costs to their company. Apparently the B.C. government has undertaken a similar cost/benefit analysis, although it is reported that many interests and individuals within British Columbia would disagree with the conclusion of their provincial government.

Southeast Alaska is downriver from this potential mining development and depends upon the Taku River for recreation, tourism and fishing. Governor Murkowski and his administration have the responsibility to determine the potential costs and potential benefits to Alaska, her citizens and her economic interests. Although it is reported that the Murkowski administration is in favor of this Canadian venture, I ask the governor to take another look, for given the facts, it's hard to imagine how the benefits to Alaska could outweigh the costs.

A Canadian venture on Canadian soil would generate no taxes for Alaska. Neither would it generate jobs for Alaskans. Given that the proposed access to the mine would be via a road from Atlin rather than up river from Alaska, it's hard to imagine that any Alaskan suppliers or transportation entities would benefit. On the other hand, the potential costs are great. Several of the most productive spawning areas for Taku River king and coho salmon are just downstream from the proposed mining development. The old Tulsequah Chief mine has reportedly been leaching toxic mine drainage into the watershed for nearly 50 years. With this history it's hard to imagine Redfern would suddenly become a good corporate steward of the Taku River just because it says so.

Many informed entities - the U.S. EPA and State Department, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, commercial fishing groups, sport fishing guides and others - have reasonably concluded that the potential costs to Alaska outweigh any possible gains for Alaska.

Richard Hacker


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