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Salt Chuck Mine

Last Modified: 10th November 2013

Summary

The Salt Chuck Mine operated as copper-palladium-gold-silver mine from around 1916 to 1941. Located on Prince of Wales Island in southeast Alaska, the site has a significant problem with acid mine drainage and is on the EPA National Superfund priority site list. Pure Nickel Inc, a Canadian-based exploration company, currently holds rights to mining leases in the area and in Summer 2012 began active exploration.

Salt Chuck Mill

Mine and mill site

source: Public Domain

Background

The Salt Chuck Mine began life as a copper-silver-gold mine and expanded after later discoveries of platinum and palladium.  Under the control of the Alaska Gold and Metals Company from 1916-1941, the mine produced around 300,000 tons of ore.

Acid mine drainage from the mine has been a problem for the ecology of the area and downstream communities for many years. Contaminants currently found at the mine range from PCBs to toxic levels of heavy metals.   As a result, the site has been on the EPA National superfund site for many years.  In March 2010, the EPA moved this site up to the "priority" list, which makes federal cleanup funds more accessible.  This was, in part, a response to requests by the village of Kasaan to clean up the mine since the downstream area is used for commercial fishing and subsistence harvesting of a variety of species. 

Salt Chuck Tailings

Contaminated tailings on the beach

source: Public Domain

In particular EPA studies of shellfish in the area have found arsenic and vanadium at levels of concern for human health.  However, the contaminated tidal areas are under State of Alaska control and there are currently no remediation plans for these areas, although cleanup of the upstream areas would presumably help.  In 2007 the EPA estimated 6.4 MB the cost to cleanup the mine at around $5 million, with perpetual annual maintenance costs of $53,000. 

In 2010, the USFS solicited cleanup bids under the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009 and the contract was won by North Wind, which is a CIRI corporation.  According to the DEC and North Wind, cleanup was underway as of summer 2011.  The EPA has continued to collect samples and monitor the site through 2013.

Current Status

Pure Nickel Inc. conducted exploratory drilling on the site as recently as 2007 .  In Fall 2011 they announced that permits had been received for continued exploration starting later in the year.  In addition, there have been rumors of the presence of rare earth elements at the site.  A drilling exploration program began in August 2012.

Exploration:
2010None
2011None
20126-hole exploratory drilling program completed.
2013Small drilling program planned
2014A 9-hole drilling program (5,577 feet).

See also further details on this exploration or our interactive map of exploration in the state.

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Attribution and Copyright info

By David CoilElizabeth LesterBretwood HigmanGround Truth Trekking

Content on this page is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license. For commercial uses please contact us.

Date Created: 6th December 2010