MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Teck fears year delay at Alaska gold project

Published by MAC on 2004-04-29


Teck fears year delay at Alaska gold project

PlanetArk

April 29, 2004

Vancouver, British Columbia - Teck Cominco Ltd.'s Pogo gold project in Alaska could be delayed by up to a year by an environmental group's appeal of a key permit, company officials said this week.

The Canadian miner has accepted an invitation from Alaska's governor to meet with the Environmental Protection Agency, state officials and the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in a bid to avoid a lengthy fight. "This appeal, if it runs its course, could hold this project up for a year, and we're hoping there can be some resolution to this," chief executive David Thompson told analysts. The environmental group has challenged an EPA decision to grant a water discharge permit to the Pogo project, saying it wanted certain issues in the permit to be specifically enumerated.

The action forced Teck Cominco to suspend construction work at the mine in eastern Alaska just as it was preparing to pour concrete for the mill complex this spring. Vancouver-headquartered Teck is the operator at Pogo and is earning a 40 percent stake in the project. Subsidiaries of Japan's Sumitomo Metal Mining and Sumitomo Corp own the remaining 60 percent.

Thompson said that the EPA's appeal board could reject the Northern Alaska Environmental Center's request, but the environmental group would then be able to take the fight to the court system. Teck Cominco is also waiting for a response from U.S. officials to Canada's proposal to resolve a fight over who will have jurisdiction over a study of potential pollution problems at Lake Roosevelt in Washington state.

The company and Canadian officials are fighting the EPA's attempt to put Teck's smelter near the U.S.-Canada border in Trail, British Columbia, under the jurisdiction of U.S. environmental laws. According to officials familiar with the Canadian proposal, Ottawa has proposed that Teck pay for the study but under the jurisdiction of Canada not the EPA.

Teck Cominco has offered to fund the study, but the U.S. agency has questioned some the methods it plans to use to assess the environmental risk of waste slag in the lake, which was created by dam on the Columbia River.

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