Alaskans uneasy over another Imperial Metals mine nearing end of construction

Alaskans uneasy over another Imperial Metals mine nearing end of construction

Image from Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre.

As news related to Monday’s tailing ponds breach in Canada’s British Columbia continue to attract headlines, Alaskans are growing nervous about another Imperial Metals' (TSX:III) mine nearing the end of construction.

The Red Chris copper and gold project, in northwest B.C., is located near the Iskut River, a major tributary of the Stikine River, which ends in southeast Alaska and it is considered one of the largest salmon habitats in the Tongass National Forest.

According to Imperial Metals’ website, Red Chris will process almost 30,000 tons of ore per day for 28 years. And after the Mount Polley disaster locals are saying a similar breach would ruin both the environment and the state’s economy.

“In Southeast Alaska, we will absorb nothing but risk,” Brian Lynch of the Petersburg Vessel Owner’s Association told JuneauEmpire.com. “A breach like [Mount Polley’s] would be a disaster (…) These systems produce a lot of salmon for our billion-dollar-a-year industry.”

“Sooner or later [the tailings dams] are going to fail,” Guy Archibald, mining and clean water coordinator at the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, was quoted as saying. “It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’”

Alaskan residents are not alone. Groups opposing North-eastern Minnesota proposed copper mines are using the spill as their newest weapon.

State of emergency

The area affected by Mount Polley’s tailings spill is under a state of local emergency, with population asked to refrain from drinking or using tap water. And while tests showed on Thursday that water quality near the breach meets drinking-water standards, the ban on water use remains in place until more tests are completed.

"The flow out of the breach has decreased dramatically, but has not completely stopped. Imperial Metals continues to work to stop flow out of the pond," reads an update issued yesterday by the B.C. government.

The cause of the dam breach remains unknown.