JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A British Columbian gold mine would pollute a major tributary of a Ketchikan fjord, threatening fishing stock and tourism, locals say.
They allege the mine's massive amounts of water requiring treatment, sludge, tailings, rock and processing would be a "looming train wreck."
A meeting of fishermen, environmentalists and tribal members convened by environmental groups focused on the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell, also known as KSM, The Juneau Empire reported.
KSM is a proposed mine undergoing permitting in British Columbia. It would be one of the largest mines in the world once operational.
"Alaska has nothing to gain by this mine," said Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Mining and Clean Water Project Coordinator Guy Archibald. "We're only going to get contamination from it."
The mine is proposed for a site on the Unuk River, which flows into the Misty Fjords National Monument.
The river supports five species of salmon. Mine owner Seabridge Gold conducted an environmental report that predicts minimal impact on fish and their habitat.
Most criticized at the meeting was the lack of objective data on the mine's impact. Since all data so far has been generated by company-funded studies, Archibald called for state dollars to pay for scientifically accurate and defensible" studies.
"The first thing we need is some baseline water quality data on these rivers," he said, referring to other mines as well. "Right now we're relying on what the companies are telling us."
The Juneau Empire attempted to reach Seabridge Gold, but the company did not return calls requesting comment by the paper's deadline.
After mining, the site could need monitoring for decades, and speakers questioned the resilience of several of the structures the company plans to hold tailings and other byproducts.
"This is a long-term, very large issue of transboundary impacts," said seiner and speaker Bruce Wallace, past president on the executive committee of the United Fishermen of Alaska.
KSM expects to employ 1,040 people at the site once the mine is operational.
At least one British Columbia tribe supports the project. The Gitxsan Treaty Society said in a letter that mine representatives' "open, honest and transparent" interactions with the Gitxsan Nation led them to support the project and the jobs and economic benefits they expect the mine to provide.
Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com