My turn: No time for Alaska fishermen to celebrate Tulsequah Chief's demise

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2005

In the latest installment of the Redfern soap opera, ten years into the story, we now hear in the May 17 press release by company president Terry Chandler that he suddenly realized the much-touted re-opening of the Tulsequah Chief Mine is not financially feasible with the known ore reserves.

Maybe Mr. Chandler should have read the 1998 "Tulsequah Chief Project Economic Analysis" by Bartek, who already came to the conclusion back then that this project is not economically feasible. Indeed, it states on page 12: "The economic value of a mineral deposit is ultimately dependent on the quality-quantity characteristics of its ore reserves. Perhaps the most irreplaceable task in the mineral deposit valuation process is in ore reserve estimation. Mining reserve estimate and assumption errors are a common cause for contributing to investment disappointment and failure."

The next episode of this drama will bring us the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' decision on whether or not to approve this now officially not financially viable mining project.

The assessment and permitting process so far seems to have been poised to facilitate access of Redfern, Canarc and others into the Taku Watershed at all costs. After the secret meeting held last May between DFO officials, Terry Chandler, a British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office official and an unregistered lobbyist (formerly a DFO deputy minister), DFO staff were instructed to limit public consultations, and the final screening report came to the conclusion that the proposed 160-kilometer access road through caribou calving grounds, grizzly bear habitat and across salmon spawning streams "is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects."

This may not be the time for Alaskan salmon fishers to sit back and celebrate, but to act. If Redfern can't finance the reopening of the mine, how will they pay for the cleanup of the continuing acid mine drainage? They may not be able to reopen the mine, but they could sell the property to a larger, more affluent company once the DFO approval is in, and then things will get busy in the Taku watershed all the same.

Based on what we have seen so far in terms of eagerness on the province's and DFO's part to get this 160-kilometer industrial road built through the Taku watershed, whatever it may cost and the effects may be, I suppose we can expect the DFO to give their approval now to this financially unviable mining venture. Anything else would be a surprise.

• Nicole Lischewski is a resident of Atlin, British Columbia.

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