Regulators withdraw permit for Red Dog mine pollution

EPA says approval was flawed because it used old data

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Federal regulators have withdrawn their approval for a permit that would allow the release of waste from the state's largest mine into waterways near the village of Kivalina in northwest Alaska.

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The Environmental Protection Agency says the permit was partly flawed because it used old data on water use and dust emissions at the Red Dog mine.

Red Dog officials said the revocation is a blow to expansion plans and adds uncertainty to the mine's future.

Teck Cominco, the mine's operator, says the main ore body at the 18-year-old mine will be tapped out by 2012 and they need the permit approved in order to expand.

Kivalina residents have been fighting the mine for years over water safety issues and say they're pleased with the decision.

As long as the mine discharges its treated waste into the village drinking water supply, Kivalina residents will fear for their health, said deputy mayor Enoch Adams.

"It's a huge sticking point in a lot of people's minds," he said.

Red Dog is the largest private employer in the Northwest Arctic borough and the largest lead and zinc mine in the world. High mineral prices pushed the value of Red Dog's output last year to more than $1 billion.

The mine is a joint venture of Teck Cominco, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Alaska Native regional corporation NANA.

The EPA is holding a series of educational meetings and public hearings this week around Alaska to discuss the mine expansion.

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