Open Pit Mine Threatens Unuk River and Salmon Stock in Ketchikan Area

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Update on efforts to gain access to Seabridge, the company behind the KSM mine.

The government of British Columbia is pushing resource development, despite First Nation’s protests.  Since KSM will be on Canadian soil, allowing acid runoff to flow into Alaskan waters of the Unuk, the U.S. State Department’s involvement is key. On March 13 of 2013, the Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) met in Ketchikan to discuss subsistence issues in Southeast. Rob Sanderson, Holly Churchill, Victoria McDonald and Norman Arriola testified with their numerous concerns with KSM.  The RAC was aware of the transboundary mines but not their immediate threat.  After testimony, RAC agreed to write a letter to the federal subsistence board who can then contact the State Department, and the Secretary of the Interior.  Hopefully, Alaskans will earn a reprieve from mining on their tranboundary rivers.

There has been no water quality monitoring done on the Unuk and 3 years of baseline is needed for scientific analysis.  Guy Archibald of SEACC, working with the Dept of Habitat for Alaska Department of Fish & Game created a budget of $246,600 for water quality monitoring for the summer of 2013. Requests to Peggy Wilson who represents our area in the legislature did not result in funding so the Unuk is on hold for another year.

For centuries, the Unuk has provided salmon for native peoples.  However, ooligan, an anadromous smelt, arrives in early spring, bringing an end to the late winter food shartages. Traditionally, ooligan have been a treasured resource for food and “grease” was used extensively for trade, even carried inland in bentwood boxes. The US Forest Service, in charge of Misty Fjords, has not allowed ooligan harvesting since 2005. Once again, the fishery was closed this year.  However, Tsimshians from New Metlakatla, reported ooligan spawning in the Unuk, good news for the native way of life.

The Unuk River runs from British Columbia to Southeast Alaska through the Misty Fjords National Monument near Ketchikan, Alaska. One of southern Alaska’s largest rivers in the Ketchikan area, it produces more king salmon than any stream in the region.

Seabridge Gold, a Canadian company, is pursuing the permitting of a large open pit mine 400 times bigger than the Kensington Mine. This proposed mine, Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM), would dump 2.1 Billion Tons of toxic mine and acid waste in the Unuk and Nass River watersheds. The location of the proposed mine is just north of the US border in BC. Access would be via a new road along the northern Unuk and would include a large bridge crossing the river. The “Open Pit” of the mine is to be on Sulphurets Creek, a tributary of the Unuk River with a 15 mile tunnel for transporting ore to a processing facility on the Nass River.

Toxic mine and acid waste from the open pit mine would be dammed, marginally treated and then will run into Sulphurets Creek. Seabridge fails to account for the countless subterranean rivers beginning on the Canadian side eventually to join with the Unuk and Chickamin Rivers.

Exploration work continued in British Columbia during the summer of 2012. Two ice roads were built on a nearby glacier in order to determine the extent of the deposit .  Seabridge has not returned to Ketchikan for a town meeting, and the company has not contacted any Alaskan tribes.

See why Open Pit Mines are bad for the Unuk River:

The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell is scheduled to begin the permitting process through the BC government in late 2012.

What can you do?

Contact the Ministry of British Columbia, Environmental Protection Division at: 250.387.1288, or Email:

Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Office of the Commissioner at: 907.269.8431, or Email:

For additional information, visit The Unuk River Post
Consider signing the Petition

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Bokan Mountain mine

Bokan Mountain on Prince of Wales, has been in the news for its uranium and Rare Earth Elements. Ucore Rare Metals, a Canadian exploration company, promotes Bokan as its flagship property with an untapped resource of 11 million lbs of Uranium 308 and Rare Earth Elements (RRE) “estimated to be the largest combined heavy and light RRE deposit within the US”.

However, the site is not NI 43-101 compliant which leaves it wide open for exaggerated claims. NI 43-101 is a mineral resource classification scheme used for public disclosure relating to minerals properties in Canada.  NI 43-101, a guideline for how public companies disclose scientific and technical information about mineral projects, does not apply to Bokan.  The purpose  of NI 43-101 is to ensure that misleading, erroneous or fraudulent information relating to mineral properties is not published or promoted to investors on the stock exchange overseen by the Canadian Securities Authority.  Since the mine is in the US, Ucore is not subject to Canadian regulations.

Ucore is downplaying the fact that Kendrick Creek is listed as high priority by the State of Alaska Contamination Sites Program because of heavy metals and radioactive isotopes left by the Ross-Adams mine.  Kendrick Creek, a stream used for subsistence salmon and shellfish harvest, in addition to a significant commercial salmon harvest, is again under threat.

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