Alaskan lake’s fate could echo across continent
US Supreme Court will decide if Lower Slate should be disposal site for mine wastes.
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Waldo, the environmental attorney, says that’s misleading. “They would be taking pulverized rock from the mine, adding chemicals to help skim off the gold, then piping the leftover slurry waste over three miles to the lake at the rate of 200,000 gallons a day,” Waldo says. “This stuff won’t be harmless. It’ll have a pH level equal to ammonia, which is toxic to aquatic life.”Skip to next paragraph
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“Their purpose is to stop any and all industrial activity,” he says. “They make Lower Slate seem like some incredible jewel. It’s just a dumb little lake that hardly has any value.”
Lower Slate is not a destination for anglers or hikers, nor is it a direct water source for humans, but it is home to an estimated 1,000 Dolly Varden char. The company acknowledges that the lake’s aquatic life, including many of those fish, will perish, though it says the lake can be restocked with new fish afterward and insists Lower Slate will end up being healthier than before.
Ruling may affect other mine projects
The US Supreme Court’s impending ruling on the impounding of mine wastes in Lower Slate Lake may set a precedent for similar situations. Among them:
• Ecojustice Canada will go before the Supreme Court of Canada to challenge the legality of the Red Chris Mine in British Columbia. Red Chris, owned by Imperial Metals Corp. of Vancouver, has proposed building a massive open-pit gold and silver operation in the middle of the Stikine River basin.
The project is estimated to generate nearly half a billion tons of tailings and waste rock that could create acid mine drainage and pose a threat to fish and wildlife deemed important to aboriginal subsistence. It has sparked protests and civil disobedience among First Nations tribes.
• The US Supreme Court ruling could also influence the direction of the largest proposed gold, copper, and molybdenum venture in the world, the Pebble Mine, being pursued on the remote Alaska Peninsula.
To extract an estimated $350 billion in minerals, Northern Dynasty Mines Inc. and its British partners, Rio Tinto and Anglo American, would open two mines: A giant open pit, and probably a network of underground tunnels, would be carved into a labyrinth of headwaters draining into Bristol Bay on the ocean and in the vicinity of lakes Clark and Iliamna.
Bristol Bay, Alaska, is at the epicenter of the largest healthy salmon runs left in the world and a legendary sport trout fishery. Gov. Sarah Palin (R) of Alaska (who supports the Kensington mine proposal) has not yet expressed publicly whether she supports the Pebble Mine venture.