Rivers Without Borders Press Release on Tulsequah Chief Mine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     
June 19, 2007                                              
Chris Zimmer,  Rivers Without Borders,


 (JUNEAU)  Alaska and US federal agencies have formally raised a host of concerns about Redcorp’s hoverbarge plan, including significant risks to Taku salmon, a worrisome lack of detail and the need for extensive scientific analysis of the untested technology.  New information from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of the Interior (DOI) also indicates Redcorp’s fast track permitting and development schedule is unrealistic and the hoverbarge plan faces a very uncertain future.

“Redcorp clearly has a large number of hurdles before Alaska agencies will even consider granting them permits for the hoverbarge,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders.  “The agencies rightly have strong concerns about Taku salmon and are insisting they need more details about the proposal and more time to analyze it.  Southeast Alaska’s most important salmon river is no place to experiment with unproven and high-risk technology.”

The junior Canadian mining company Redcorp Ventures is pushing to reopen the Tulsequah Chief Mine, an abandoned mine just across the BC-Alaska border that has been leaking acid and toxic heavy metals into the Taku watershed for decades.  This winter, Redcorp announced it is placing on hold its plans to construct a 100-mile access road from Atlin, BC to the mine site, about 40 miles northeast of Juneau.
It now plans to use an amphibious tug boat and a hovercraft- like barge to access the mine via Juneau and the Taku River.

In May ADFG biologists wrote and sent to DNR two memos outlining a long list of concerns and problems with Redcorp’s hoverbarge proposal.  The memos outline serious risks to the Taku’s fishery which, according to the McDowell Group, supports hundreds of jobs and provides about $8 million in annual revenues.
Important concerns from the memos include:
•           “damage [to] valuable salmon spawning and rearing habitat which will lead to
reduced numbers of salmon”
•           “this critical habitat area of the lower Taku River watershed should [not] be the
testing ground for the unproven application of this technology.”
•           “none of the information provided by the applicant demonstrates prior use of
this equipment in an environment like that of the Taku River.”

Rivers Without Borders (RWB) has learned DNR staff is taking the ADFG concerns seriously and have requested a significant amount of information from Redcorp in a June 13 letter.  RWB also learned that the need for additional data, for significant revisions to Redcorp’s permit applications and for Alaska agency staff to have adequate time to analyze the hoverbarge proposal will take far more time than Redcorp’s schedules and promotional materials indicate.

“Redcorp is trying to fast track this process for its own financial reasons.
Alaska’s first priority has to be the salmon and the working families that depend on the fishery.  We are glad state and federal agencies recognize the importance of the Taku to Southeast Alaska and will put this proposal through the most stringent review possible. That means no permits unless Redcorp proves this experimental technology won’t harm the Taku fishery,” said Zimmer.

In comments submitted to the BC government June 13 DOI focused on the difficulty of analyzing the hoverbarge proposal since “there is no experience in using the ACB [hoverbarge] with the amphitrac [tow vehicle].”  DOI’s six pages of questions reflect most of the ADFG concerns related to water quality and salmon.  The US EPA concurred with DOI’s comments and added a specific request for a detailed cumulative effects analysis.

ADFG noted numerous significant omissions in Redcorp’s General Waterway/Waterbody Application and Coastal Project Questionnaire, both required as part of the Alaska permitting process.  DNR confirms that the two applications will have to be re-done and that a Land Use permit application has yet to be submitted.  Redcorp says it will issue a Volume Two Project Description in July, which may provide the information needed for a more detailed analysis, but information from DNR and ADFG suggests that Volume Two will likely be significantly delayed.

“Redcorp has to amend two Alaska permit applications due to serious errors and omissions and hasn’t yet submitted the third required application while US and Alaska agencies are raising strong concerns and demanding much more detail about this untested hoverbarge,” added Zimmer.  “I can’t imagine how Redcorp can meet its optimistic project schedule given this level of scrutiny and the entire hoverbarge proposal is now in question.”

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