Potential Tulsequah buyer acquires Redcorp Ventures' Portugal assets

EPA wants acid mine drainage cleaned up whether mine is in operation or not

Posted: Sunday, May 09, 2010

A company headed by former Redfern Resources president Terry Chandler has purchased Redfern's Portugal subsidiary, Redcorp Empreendimentos Mineiros Unipessoal, according to Canadian court documents.

Strategic Resource Acquisition Corp., a company that named Chandler its executive vice president in February, purchased the two mine sites for $315,000 on April 20.

The mines were owned by Redcorp Ventures, parent company of Redfern Resources, the most recent owner of the Tulsequah Chief mine in British Columbia. Redcorp went bankrupt in June 2009.

Alaskan officials found out in April that another company that Chandler heads, Chieftain Metals, wants to purchase the Tulsequah Chief mine. Chieftain's three principal owners are executives at SRA.

Redfern was trying to open the Tulsequah Chief, which for decades has leaked acid mine drainage into the Taku River watershed, a prized salmon habitat used by Juneau commercial and sport fishermen. Its plan to use experimental air cushion barges to move ore and equipment on the river was controversial among Alaskan river users.

It is unclear if Chandler plans to use the same technology if the ownership transfer goes through. The air cushion barge was still under construction when Redfern went bankrupt.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants a new owner to be made responsible for clean-up at the mine, EPA's Patricia McGrath said.

"We want the B.C. government to make sure the clean-up occurs whether or not the mine is built," McGrath said.

She said the agency is in the process of forwarding its concerns in writing to Canadian officials, and will elevate the issue if the Canadian government does not respond.

Alaskan officials received no response last year when they requested in July that water treatment equipment remain on site after Redfern went bankrupt.

At a constituent meeting this week, Juneau Rep. Beth Kerttula, a Democrat, said the governor wrote the B.C. premier and received no reply.

"The Canadian government has been totally inactive on this," she said. "It's time for Alaskans to take control of it, and make sure our fishery is not affected."

Chieftain Metals is owned by Chandler, Terrence Byberg and Victor Wyprysky, according to a corporation profile report. Wyprysky is president and CEO at SRA, which exited bankruptcy protection in January - one month before Chandler and Byberg were named executives.

The proposed mine transfer is being handled by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, which would not acknowledge Chandler as the potential new owner.

"That's not information that's been directly communicated to us," Project Assessment Manager Jennifer Dessouki said. "We are not speculating on who the new proponent may be."

There is no time frame for the provincial minister of environment to make a decision whether to allow the proposed mine transfer.

A spokeswoman at Environment Canada said the agency would assess actions once a new owner has been identified.

"The owner will have a responsibility to address this long-standing Fisheries Act violation and achieve compliance," Sujata Raisinghani wrote in an e-mail.

The Portugal properties are the Lagoa Salgada polymetallic base and precious metals project and the Vila de Rei gold project in central Portugal. They were described as being in "early to mid-stage" development in a 2007 company report. It appears no work was planned for the following years as development focused on the Tulsequah Chief.

• Reporter Pat Forgey contributed to this report. Contact Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.

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