JUNEAU (AP) -- Plans for a British Columbia mine, 40 miles northeast of Juneau, were dealt a potentially fatal blow Wednesday when a provincial court ruled in favor of an Indian tribe's claim that the province was wrong to certify the $100 million project.
''Everything has become null and void,'' said John Ward, spokesman for the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in Atlin, B.C.
The lawsuit claimed that the Environmental Assessment Review of the Tulsequah Chief mine and a 100-mile access road was flawed and the project could damage the tribe's territorial hunting and fishing grounds.
''Our big concern is the health and well-being of the environment on which our life depends,'' Ward said in a telephone interview.
Messages left with Redfern Resources Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C., the company seeking to reopen the mine, were not returned.
The mine is near the confluence of the Tulsequah and Taku rivers, near where British Columbia borders Southeast Alaska, about 40 miles northeast of Juneau. Redfern has estimated it would produce 56,000 ounces of gold, along with silver, lead and zinc, and support 600 full-time jobs for at least a decade.
The company planned to build a road from the mine site to Atlin, B.C., then carry the ore to Skagway to be loaded on barges.
Environmental and Native groups, along with federal and state officials in the United States, have challenged the plan, saying the mine could threaten the rivers' water quality and salmon habitat.
The glacier-fed Taku is home to five species of Pacific salmon and is important for both U.S. and Canadian commercial and sport fishing.
The controversial plan heated up a notch when the provincial government issued a certificate in 1998 authorizing Redfern to move forward with the development of the mine.
In their lawsuit, the Canadian Tlingits said they repeatedly raised concerns about the mine's impacts on fish and wildlife and argued that the company raced through the environmental review, thus producing a flawed final report.
The ruling was ''very good news'' for the state, said Rob Bosworth, deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
''We think this provides an excellent opportunity to embark on the bi-national watershed plan that we had requested all along,'' Bosworth said.
British Columbia officials said they need more time before responding to the court's ruling.
''At this point, we are reviewing the judgment and are taking a look at what the best course of action will be,'' said Kerry Readshaw, spokeswoman for the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines.
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