Rollover spills six tons of zinc concentrate near Red Dog Mine

Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- About six tons of zinc concentrate spilled in a blowing storm Friday morning when a truck overturned on the road from the Red Dog Mine to its port facility.

The spill was the third such incident since October involving the mine operated by Cominco Alaska. Bad weather was a factor in all three incidents.

Department of Environmental Conservation officials said they're concerned about the frequency of spills on the same mine road. DEC environmental specialist Walt Sandel said the agency will be looking at the procedures used for hauling zinc in extreme weather conditions.

''It's pretty unusual to have this many in five months,'' said DEC environmental specialist Walt Sandel.

Cominco contracts with Nana-Lynden Logistics to haul the concentrate. Cominco officials referred press calls to Nana-Lynden officials, who could not be reached for comment.

Friday's rollover occurred at 5:30 a.m. when the truck pulling two trailers ran off the road. Sandel said the driver of the truck miscalculated the width of the road because of blowing snow and poor visibility.

Each of the trailers carried 40 tons of zinc concentrate. The material spilled from one of the trailers, covering a 10-foot-by-20-foot section of road gravel and tundra.

The driver suffered minor injuries and was treated at the scene, according to the DEC.

Sandel said the powdery concentrate has been covered with a tarp until the weather improves. Friday afternoon, cleanup was impossible in 50-mph winds, he said.

''Because the stuff is so fine, winds should be below 15 or 20 miles an hour for cleanup,'' he said.

The mishap comes less than two months after 40 tons of zinc concentrate spilled when a truck overturned on the mine road.

In the October incident, a truck jackknifed, spilling 30 tons of lead concentrate. In both cases, bad weather also delayed the cleanup.

The mine 90 miles northeast of Kotzebue is among the largest lead and zinc mines in the world.

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