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Bokan Mountain Mine

This area is drained by Kendrick Creek and boarders Kendrick Bay. Kendrick Creek is listed as an important stream for the rearing and spawning of salmon by Alaska Fish and Game. Kendrick Bay is a significant commercial salmon fishery and is also heavily used for subsistence fish and shellfish gathering.

Decades of uranium mining on Bokan Mountain have contaminated Kendrick Creek and portions of Kendrick Bay with heavy metals and radioactive isotopes that are quickly moving up the food chain. Proposals for re-newed mining threaten to cause new contamination and increase the danger to human health

Existing Contamination at Ross Adams

Significant stream and marine contamination was reported in a study done in 2004. (2004 Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection Report, USDA Forest Service). This report shows that Kendrick Creek and the tide flats entering Kendrick Bay contain levels of lead, arsenic and radioactive isotopes 3 to 4 times the background levels. This poses a significant threat to wildlife and people utilizing this area for food.

The U.S. Forest Service has placed the site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund. The Forest Service is currently conducting a clean-up of the contaminated area upland from the bay.

It is uncertain how renewed mining activity will affect this process. Kendrick Bay and Creek were both taken off Alaska’s Impaired Waters list and put under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Meanwhile, U-Core continues a drilling and exploration program focused on both Rare Earth Elements (REE’s) and uranium. REEs are used in new technologies such as cell phones and wind turbines. Because these minerals are considered of strategic national importance, normal environmental protections may be disregarded.

The concentration and separation of rare earth metals from mined ore generates massive amounts of acidic radioactive waste. In China, the leading supplier of REE’s in the world, estimated clean-up costs associated with environmental damage caused by REE mining has reached $6 billion.

Preliminary plans are for Ucore to process this ore on-site on Prince of Wales Island although the company has yet to produce an economic feasibility plan. During the 2010 session the Alaska legislature passed a resolution supporting development of this mine. Recently, the Forest Service granted the mine’s request for a priority permitting status. The State of Alaska has also supported legislation to fund extending 12 miles of road through the Tongass National Forest to improve access to the project.

What's Next

SEACC was instrumental in getting Kendrick Bay and Kendrick Creek listed on the Impaired Waters list. We would like to see the areas restored by the Forest Service remain uncontaminated.

SEACC will stay involved in the exploration activities and will work to see that the valuable fish habitat and clean water quality of the area remain protected. We have submitted comments to the Forest Service on the proposed exploration permit asking the Forest Service to conduct an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement prior to allowing further drilling, building and other activities on public land. (link)

We are monitoring this site very closely.

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