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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

BC mine proposal on Unuk headwaters

By Victoria McDonald


October 07, 2013
Monday PM

Since 2008, Seabridge Inc of Toronto, Canada has been compiling studies and engineering plans, into a 42 volume, 3,100 page document concerning the KSM mining proposal on the headwaters of the Unuk River. Seabridge was in Juneau in late August to talk to State and federal officials and met with a few tribal officials to give an hour and a half power point presentation. Water quality issues that will result from this massive project were described as one-of-a-kind technology that will be used to treat huge amounts of storm water, ground water and millions of gallons of water expected from three huge pits, all expected to produce acid mine drainage. The EA describes the seismic threat as moderate, but did not address how a seismic event could affect the drainage tunnel s power supply or the power plant necessary to protect downstream water quality.

There has never been a mine of this size developed in an area with this much precipitation above critical salmon habitat. The plan calls for complex new technology and engineering. All the different systems necessary are analyzed separately; there is no mention of cascading events that precede most industrial accidents. For example, the Fukushima disaster was caused by one event, an earthquake that led to a tidal wave, power outage, severed access for emergency workers and multiple system failure. It is still leaking radioactive waste into the Pacific.

The entire conclusion that this mine can be developed while protecting salmon is based on first-of-its-kind technology designed to protect natural systems that are not completely understood. Everything in the EA is based on models, assumptions, predictions, simulations, man-made habitats and interpretations. The uncertainties regarding mitigation are particularly troubling. We need to know how major problems will be handled and if bonding has been established to pay for mistakes.

This mine will bring rapid massive development in an ecologically and culturally rich area in BC and Alaska. Traditional and Customary Usage by native tribes is given little attention, one of the main contentions Native Alaskans have with mines. Additionally, the Unuk is contained within Misty Fjords, a National Monument, and the Forest Service is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the monument and its uses.

Most of this technology has never before been tried, especially not for the 250 years the company must plan for. The Unuk River should not be the lab rat. The risk for failure is very high while the optimistic predictions are likely to have problems.

The comment period on the EA end Oct 21. If you'd like to comment online, go to and find the tab marked "Transboundary Issues".

Senator Murkowski's phone: 877- 829-6030. Senator Begich's phone: 877-501-6275.

Victoria McDonald
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: " Since the Oct 2011 meeting in Ketchikan with Seabridge's plans for the KSM mine on the headwaters of the Unuk River, I have followed the progress of this proposal. Here is the latest."

Received October 04, 2013 - Published October 07, 2013



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