Today in the Legislature I rose to question the Minster of Energy and Mines on ongoing problems at Tulsequah Chief mine located in northwestern BC. Untreated acid mine drainage has been flowing into the Tulsequah River, a pristine salmon spawning ground, since 1957.
Last week Rivers Without Borders, a transboundary watershed conservation group, questioned whether or not the government was backpeddling on its promise to clean up the mine site. Today I posed that question directly to the Minister.
Below I reproduce the video and text of the exchange.
A. Weaver: The Tulsequah Chief mine, located on the best salmon-producing watershed in the B.C.-Alaska transboundary region, has been the host to a series of unfortunate events. Acid mine drainage has been entering the prime salmon spawning ground for 60 years. It’s bankrupted two companies in the last seven years. It’s an issue of profound concern for Alaska’s elected officials and is officially being opposed by the Taku River Tlingit First Nation.
It’s environmentally irresponsible, fiscally reckless and offensive to the Taku River Tlingit First Nation and Alaska for the B.C. government to allow the sordid Tulsequah Chief story to continue as is.
My question is to the Minister of Energy and Mines, who has repeatedly committed to fixing the problems that this mine has created. Will B.C. keep its word and address the Tulsequah problem with a long overdue proper cleanup, or will it allow yet another mining company to pick up where Chieftain Metals left off and let Tulsequah Chief’s controversy waste and environmental black eye to B.C. continue?
Hon. B. Bennett: I’d like to thank the member for the question. I think all of us — on this side of the House, and certainly, on the other side of the House — share the concern about any situation in the province, whether it’s mining or any other activity, that has potential to harm the environment and also has potential to harm the reputation of the province. I take the member’s question very seriously, and we take the situation very seriously on this side of the House.
The state of Alaska and the province of British Columbia have done three studies of the Tulsequah River and the Taku River to determine whether there are contaminants going into the river, and those studies so far have shown that there isn’t significant environmental harm being done. Nonetheless, the member is correct that B.C. has an obligation to manage that situation very carefully.
I can tell the member that we are committed to doing more work on that site. We did some work in the fall, up to freeze-up. We have a regular communication with the state of Alaska to make sure that they know what we’re doing up there. After breakup this spring, I know that we have crews going back into the site to do some more work.