Mine loses battle over pollution permit

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010

ANCHORAGE - Alaska Natives living in two villages have won a battle against the world's largest zinc mine over a permit they said would have polluted an important fish stream that provides food and drinking water.

The Native villages of Kivalina and Point Hope challenged the Red Dog Mine's new water pollution discharge permit. The federal permit would have allowed more cyanide, zinc, selenium, lead and total dissolved solids into the Wulik River, villagers said.

Enoch Adams Jr., vice president of the Native Village of Kivalina, has called the permit a "license to pollute." It was to become effective March 1.

Teck Alaska felt the permit worked on by the state and the Environmental Protection Agency was sound, Jim Kulas, the company's environmental and public affairs manager, said Friday. If the permit issues can't be resolved by October, plans will go forward to shut down the mining operation until they are, he said.

The villages' native councils, five Kivalina residents and two conservation groups appealed the permit in February. After a review, the EPA decided March 17 that Teck Alaska will have to comply with more stringent levels under its 1998 permit at the mine in northeast Alaska.

The mine, which is the largest employer in the area, sought the new permit in an effort to expand operations into another nearby deposit and extend the life of the mine perhaps 20 years.

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