SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Massive mine planned on the Unuk;
Economies of Scale Create the Greatest Damage
By Victoria McDonald


May 24, 2012

The proposed KSM mine on a tributary of the Unuk River could give rise to one of the largest gold-copper mines in the world. If Seabridge's project is permitted, Alaskan waters within Misty Fjords will be threatened by millions of gallons of heavy metals laden acid drainage. King, coho and sockeye salmon that rely on the Unuk River will be forced to find new spawning areas, in addition to steelhead, cutthroat, char, and other species of fish and wildlife.

Canada will get the benefits but Alaska will get the pollution.

In order to obtain the low grade gold/copper deposits, four mountains will be blasted apart. Open pits and nearby rock storage facilities will cover approximately 30 square miles. Fifty two years of blasting and trucking rock will deposit dust on nearby glaciers, accelerating the melting and polluting the runoff.

Seabridge has given its assurance that water filtered through massive rock storage facilities can be treated, and will be safe for fish. Given the scale of this proposal, it will be impossible to treat the vast amounts of surface and groundwater .The Kuipers-Maest study found that mines that operated in areas of heavy precipitation are at extreme risk of polluting nearby streams. Even if pit liners are utilized, they will be insufficient to hold the acid drainage and have never been tested in the long term.

The KSM mine is expected to process between 120,000 to 180,000 tons of ore per day and 120 million tons per year. Tailings will fill an entire valley that drains into a tributary of the Nass River. The type of ore deposit here makes it certain that acid mine drainage and metal leaching will occur. Due to the enormity of this project, if any liner or dam leaks, it will continue for many hundreds of years. The Chief Talsequah mine on the Taku has been leaking acid since 1957 and could require active water treatment forever.

Any failures in a mine of this size will be catastrophic. Tearing apart four mountains, grinding rock and shipping ore down Portland Canal will require an incredible infrastructure; a large campsite, massive trucks carrying dynamite and ore, road building and associated erosion, all with potential for great harm to the fragile landscape.

The Canadian Ministry of the Environment will not protect Alaska's interests. Only 3 of 40 Canadian agencies that once regulated mining projects are still functioning. Mining companies will now be allowed to self monitor with little to no oversight. Our rivers will be filled with acid runoff unless Alaska acts to protect our rivers.

Contact the Dept of Natural Resources (907-586-2954) and Habitat Division of Alaska Dept of Fish and Game (907-465-4275) if you have concerns.

Victoria McDonald
Ketchikan, AK

About: "I've been a resident of Southeast Alaska for 34 years and want to protect fish runs."

Received May 22, 2012 - Published May 24, 2012



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