Redcorp Ventures' attempts to downplay an accident during conventional barging operations on the Taku River in early July demonstrates that this company cannot be trusted to operate safely on Southeast Alaska's most important salmon river.
Redcorp spokeswoman Salina Landstad first denied any problem and wondered how such "rumors" got started. When presented with pictures showing the tugboat pulled over on its side with propellers exposed, Landstad said the "camera angle" made the situation seem worse than it was. She said it was "not uncommon" for tugboats to "tilt" when going through a whirlpool.
Rolling on its side is one heck of a tilt, and I sincerely doubt this type of accident is a common occurrence for other companies.
Thankfully there were no serious injuries or property damage, although the injury to one crewman was inaccurately downplayed by the Redcorp spokeswoman.
Redcorp is now proposing extensive conventional barging during the summer months for the nine-year life of the Tulsequah Chief Mine, which would involve shipping hundreds of tons of diesel fuel, cyanide, ore concentrate and other toxic chemicals on a daily basis. An accident involving such cargo would seriously harm water quality and the Taku's rich fisheries.
Redcorp recently abandoned the idea of using an "amphitrac" to tow its hoverbarge up and down the Taku during the rest of the year and is now proposing to use several Rolligons, tracked vehicles and other vehicles to tow the hoverbarge in the non-summer months. It is telling that this new plan has not been endorsed by the technical consulting firm who, up to now, had written Redcorp's hoverbarge plans.
Redcorp's proposal to run a fleet of barges, hoverbarges, tugboats and tracked and wheeled vehicles up and down the Taku on a daily basis for nine years poses clear and significant risks to water quality, fisheries, wildlife and those who depend on the Taku for their livelihoods.
Hopefully the move of the Habitat Division back to the Department of Fish and Game will help ensure that Redcorp's new proposal receives an extremely rigorous review. The Taku is too important to Southeast Alaska for a junior Canadian mining company to use it as an experimental testing ground for their nutty ideas. We have only to look down south where most of the commercial salmon fisheries on the west coast have been shut down to see what can happen if fisheries resources are not protected and managed properly.
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