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Study: Red Dog area subsistence foods safe

Six-year study shows dust from zinc, lead mining poses no significant health and environmental hazards, but must be monitored

 

Last updated 12/30/2007 at Noon



Teck Cominco Alaska Inc. released the final report Nov. 29 of a six-year study that concludes it is safe to consume subsistence foods in all areas near the Red Dog Mine in northwestern Alaska without restrictions.

The final report of the "DeLong Mountain Regional Transportation System Fugitive Dust Risk Assessment" incorporated formal comments and input from a wide range of government agencies and stakeholders, including local village residents," said Wayne Hall, Red Dog Mine's Senior Environmental Coordinator.

Ore concentrates (ground-up ore/rock) that are trucked from Red Dog Mine along the DMTS road have escaped into the environment over time, and there were concerns that metals within the ore concentrates may have affected subsistence foods and the environment.

Teck Cominco voluntarily undertook the study in 2001 with the oversight of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. It was designed to evaluate the potential for risk to human and environmental health from exposure to metals in fugitive dust in areas surrounding the DMTS road, DMTS port and Red Dog Mine, which is the world's largest zinc producer.

"We believe Teck Cominco has been responsive in addressing our concerns and those of various stakeholders," said Rich Sundet, DEC project manager. "We will review the final report, and look forward to continuing our work with Teck Cominco on the development of a risk management plan to address current and future risks."

While the study concluded that subsistence foods are safe for people to consume, it identified some ecological effects that will require ongoing risk management. These include changes to the plant community observed in areas close to the port, road, and mine, as well as potential effects to ptarmigan living close to the port and mine.

"The results of Teck Cominco's Risk Assessment are good news for NANA Regional Corporation, Kivalina, Noatak and the people of the NANA Region," said Marie Greene, CEO of NANA Regional Corp. "However, despite the study's positive conclusions, we must immediately undertake actions to reduce the remaining risks now and in the future."

Teck Cominco said it would proactively address the issues with a risk management plan that will identify actions to minimize potential risk to human health and the environment over the life of the mine, Hall said.

The plan will identify the most appropriate combination of actions to achieve the overall goal of minimizing risk to human health and the environment surrounding the DMTS and outside the Red Dog Mine boundary over the life of the mine, the company said.

The risk management plan also will build upon ongoing efforts by Teck Cominco to reduce dust emissions, including the use of newer trucks, installation of truck-washing facilities, and significant upgrades to unloading, storage, transfer, barge-loading, and ship-loading facilities.

The final report must now undergo review and acceptance by DEC.

The study and a companion fact sheet can be accessed at http://www.dec.state.ak.us/spar/csp/sites/reddog.htm.

A printed copy is available for viewing at the DEC office at 555 Cordova Street in Anchorage. Please contact Rich Sundet at 907-269-7578, or rich.sundet@alaska.gov, to schedule an appointment.

 

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