Teck announced in mid-February 2010 that several environmental and tribal groups had appealed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) issuance of the Red Dog zinc mine’s renewed National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which was due to come into effect on March 1, 2010. The latest appeal was filed by the same groups that in January challenged a state of Alaska decision certifying that the same permit complied with the state’s water quality standards. Until the EPA issues a notice clarifying which provisions of the permit are subject to appeal and consequently stayed, the entire new permit is stayed, Teck reported. EPA usually issues such notices within 30 days of appeal. The unstayed provisions would then come into effect 30 days after the notice. The corresponding provisions of Red Dog’s existing permit would remain in effect for any stayed provisions.
“Until EPA issues the notice, Teck will not know whether and to what extent access to Aqqaluk, the next deposit to be mined at Red Dog, will be affected by the appeal,” the Teck statement said. “The current operating plan calls for continuing to mine the Main Deposit under existing permits until mid-2011. However, in order to maintain efficient production rates, Main Deposit ore will eventually need to be supplemented with ore from Aqqaluk. If permit delays extend beyond May 2010, the transition plan will be affected and production at Red Dog would likely be curtailed in October 2010. Production would not be expected to resume until the appeal is resolved and the mine can be restarted, which could take up 18 months unless the appeal is withdrawn.”
Teck received other state and local permits required for the development of Aqqaluk in December 2009. The appeal period for those permits has expired. A wetlands permit from the Army Corp of Engineers was the only outstanding agency authorization, Teck said. This permit was undergoing final agency review. There is no specific period established for an appeal of this permit. An appeal of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) or wetlands permit could also delay access to the Aqqaluk deposit.
The Red Dog mine and concentrator properties are leased by Teck from NANA Regional Corporation (NANA), a native Alaskan development corporation, and were developed under the terms of a development and operating agreement with NANA. “The permits that are being appealed are fully protective of the environment,” Rosie Barr, resources manager for NANA, said. “Red Dog mine is a great example of responsible resource development for rural Alaska. The essential economic, cultural, and social benefits to our region and our people must be allowed to continue. It is important to future generations of NANA shareholders that we extend the mine’s life and the benefits it delivers for another 20 years.”