B.C. moves to close polluting Tulsequah Chief mine site

The mine, about 80 kilometres south of Atlin, B.C., has been inactive and leaking acid runoff for years.

Mine near Atlin, B.C., has been inactive and leaking acid runoff for years

Acid drainage from the Tulsequah Chief Mine on the Tulsequah River in B.C. The provincial government has issued an RFP to develop a remediation and closure plan for the abandoned site. (Chris Miller)

A notorious mine site in northern B.C. that's been leaking acid runoff for years may finally be cleaned up.

B.C.'s department of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to come up with a closure and remediation plan for Tulsequah Chief mine, about 80 kilometres south of Atlin.

The government's RFP document says the environmental impact of the mine is "a longstanding concern and the Province is committed to finding a permanent resolution by remediating the risks."

The mine is on the shores of the Taku River and was in operation from 1951 to 1957, producing gold, silver, zinc, copper and other minerals. It's been inactive since then, although two companies have tried to revive the mine in recent years with no success.

The mine is south of Atlin B.C., and upstream from Juneau, Alaska. (Google)

Its most recent owner, Chieftain Metals Corp., acquired the site in 2010 and constructed a water treatment plant to deal with the tailings, but the plant lasted just nine months before shutting down. Chieftain Metals went bankrupt in 2016.

'An encouraging sign'

Chris Zimmer, from the Alaska-based environmental group Rivers Without Borders, applauds the B.C. government for stepping in.

"This does look like an encouraging sign, and it's the best sign I've seen in almost 20 years of doing this work, that we're going to be able to end the acid mine issue at Tulsequah chief," he said.

The mine has been a source of concern for Alaskans, as the acid run-off eventually flows into the Taku River, and downstream toward Juneau.

Zimmer said the best solution is to close the mine for good.

"This isn't a mine really that is commercially viable. It's just not a good mine," Zimmer said.

"There's still a lot to happen and we're definitely going to keep a close eye on this ... we've still got quite a ways to go here."

With files from Mike Rudyk