Looking down into the Red Dog Mine

The Red Dog Mine, in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough, is one of the world’s largest zinc and lead mines. It is owned and operated by Canada-based Teck Resources Ltd., one of Canada’s largest mine companies, which itself is now partially owned (17.5%) by the Chinese sovereign wealth fund called China Investment Corp. Teck partners with NANA, the Alaska Native Regional Corp., which provided rights to the land. The mine provides jobs to a remote and landlocked area with little or no economy outside of health care and government. Teck touts its 500 plus jobs and economic benefits for the region and local residents, though it is a major polluter, and the mine’s discharge of wastewater has been at the center of a years-long battle with residents of a small coastal village called Kivalina.

I visited Red Dog in 2008. It is an impressive site. I also have met some of the opponents of the mine. There are no easy answers here. I wrote a paper on the mine and examined its health impacts, and my paper largely agreed with a study done for the permitting (not enforceable) that the mine actually provides net health benefits to the region, such as good jobs and a stable economy, despite its other health impacts. Mining is not clean or simple, and the global economic system is dependent on it. Here is how the mine looked in 2008, prior to an application that sought to expand it, with the Aqqaluk proposal, which is basically an expanded mine of the current project. (And for the record, I am opposed to the planned Pebble Mine; I am not an advocate of party line thinking.)