Empire editorial: Alaskans must keep seeking cooperation on Tulsequah mine

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2005

This week's announced stall in plans to develop the Tulsequah Chief mine in the Taku River watershed offers a welcome respite in a process that has pressed forward with little regard for other economic interests.

Redfern Resources says it will wait to open the mine 40 miles northeast of Juneau in British Columbia. Its calculations of the costs and the gold, silver, copper and zinc ore available at the site made the prospects for financing difficult. Redfern will wait for more mineral exploration at the mine before determining the feasibility.

Perhaps the remote mine never will be built. In case it pencils out as a profitable enterprise later on, though, advocates who have tried to push Alaska's interests should not let down their guard. The state's government, along with federal officials, should use the time to work out an interboundary agreement that gives affected parties at least a hearing in the matter.

Alaskans' worries about the Tulsequah Chief are not out of environmental extremism. They are a response to a real threat to the economy of the state's capital. For too long Canada has ignored those threats and Juneau's offers to meet and discuss them.

The Taku fuels both the region's commercial fisheries and its recreational lifeblood. The commercial fishery alone has been estimated in excess of $5 million. The Taku is among the giants of Alaska salmon production, and developing a mine and road system that does not account for it is dangerous and un-neighborly.

Elsewhere along their borders, the United States and Canada cooperate to manage shared resources in a way that fairly protects everyone within a watershed. Such cooperation should extend to the Northwest Coast, and now there is time to make that happen.

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