Alaskans meet with Canadians about proposed Tulsequah Chief Mine

Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Gov. Tony Knowles has sent a delegation to Vancouver, British Columbia, to meet this week with Canadians about the proposed Tulsequah Chief Mine.

Knowles repeatedly has asked the U.S. State Department to bring the $100 million mine before the International Joint Commission, which deals with trans-boundary issues.

State officials want to see more watershed planning done in efforts to protect salmon spawning grounds in the Taku River near Juneau.

The river originates in Canada.

Canadian environmental officials have signed off on a general plan for the zinc, copper, gold and silver mine. But fishermen, environmentalists, and Knowles administration officials fear mine tailings and the 100-mile road needed to access the project could damage the river's water quality and harm salmon habitat.

The mine would be located on a tributary of the Taku River south of Atlin.

''While we appreciate the exchange of information which is occurring at the meeting, we continue to believe British Columbia is putting the cart before the horse,'' said Fish and Game Commissioner Frank Rue, who is leading the state's delegation to the talks. ''Watershed planning needs to occur before irrevocable decisions are made regarding the mine or access road.''

The Taku River is the largest salmon producer in Southeast Alaska. It produces some 2 million salmon each year.

Part of the administration's complaint lies in the way Canada and British Columbia issue permits for mine construction.

Obtaining similar permits in Alaska would require a detailed plan for such things as the tailings pond in advance. The Canadian system allows those details to be worked out later.

''... Piecemeal permitting cannot ensure the safety of these valuable resources,'' Rue said in a prepared statement.

The meetings are to continue through Thursday.

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