Mine spreads dust in Alaska



Lead dust, likely from the Red Dog zinc mine, has contaminated tundra in northwest Alaska.

A newly released Park Service study has tracked how far dust from mine operations drifts from the 60-kilometre road between the mine near Kotzebue and the port where zinc is loaded for shipment.

The Anchorage Daily News says curious Park Service employees on an orientation trip in 1999 took a few samples of moss near the road. The amount of lead and other potentially harmful minerals surprised them.

In 2001, they sampled vegetation a few miles out from the road and also found high levels of the contaminants.

Teck Cominco, the company that operates the mine for owner NANA Regional Corp., had been testing air and water since the mine opened in 1989, but not moss.

Residents of Noatak and Kivalina, the nearest communities to the mine, often gather moss, berries and other foods in the area.

In 2001, Teck Cominco began a study of the risks posed by the mining operations. That US $4-million study is due out next spring.

Since 2001, Teck Cominco put US $15-million into upgrading its equipment to minimize dust, with new steel lids on trucks and a revamped barge-loading facility.

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