An alliance of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit to stop the Tulsequah Chief Mine they say would hurt Alaska wild salmon and a Canadian caribou herd.
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Sierra Legal, on behalf of the Transboundary Watershed Alliance, filed a lawsuit in Canadian federal court on Wednesday against the reopening of the mine in northern British Columbia. The suit, filed against Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, seeks to reverse the approval of federal permits and authorization for the gold mine, about 40 miles northeast of Juneau.
"We want the process halted until the problems with the environmental assessment are dealt with," Transboundary Watershed Alliance Executive Director David MacKinnon said. The alliance is an umbrella organization for 22 environmental groups on both sides of the Canadian border.
The company pursuing the mine, Redfern Resources, a subsidiary of RedCorp Ventures based in Vancouver, British Columbia, plans to fight the lawsuits, Chief Financial Officer Mike Bardell said.
"The company vigorously intends to challenge the application and feels that the process that has been undertaken to obtain all necessary authorization and approvals has been properly executed by the appropriate federal agencies," Bardell said.
The construction of a nearly 100-mile access road through wilderness to the mine would cross at least 69 fish-bearing streams and rivers and encroach upon an ecologically sensitive area that is home to a protected herd of caribou, MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon said the Canadian government reneged on an agreement to discuss the potential threats to fish habitat during a second phase of environmental assessment.
"Unfortunately, when we contacted them in May of this year they told us that there would be no second phase of assessment," he said.
The fish at risk include salmon that rely on the Taku River watershed, where parts of the access road would pass.
Bardell said Redfern Resources LTD will spend the next few days reviewing the legal challenge and discussing it with its legal representatives.
"We need a little time to evaluate what this thing is and to piece together our challenge in a more vigorous way," he said. "It will take a little more time but we certainly intend to continue with the project."