AK Community Action on Toxics

September 26, 2001


Anchorage, Alaska – Today, Alaska Community Action on Toxics released newly discovered information concerning high levels of lead and zinc contamination at the Red Dog Mine port site. A monitoring program conducted at the Red Dog mine’s port site in the mid-1990s found lead levels in soils as high as 36,000 parts per million (“ppm”) and zinc levels as high as 180,000 ppm, far in excess of state cleanup standards of 1,000 ppm for lead and 8,100 ppm for zinc.  Although the monitoring program was conducted at the request of the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA), this information was never released to the public.


            The port site monitoring program was conducted by an environmental consulting company for Cominco Alaska, Inc., at the request of the State of Alaska, Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, and 1996.  AIDEA, which financed the construction of the port and 52-mile Red Dog Mine haul road, leases the port site lands from the landowner, NANA Regional Corporation, and Cominco is the operator.  The port site is an important subsistence food hunting and gathering area for Native communities in the region.


“It’s shocking that neither Cominco nor the state released this information to the public as soon as it became available,” said Pamela K. Miller, Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics, which obtained the reports through a public records act request to AIDEA filed by the environmental law firm Trustees for Alaska.  “The contaminant levels revealed in these reports are many times the regulatory standards, raising enormous questions about the safety of the foods that have been gathered at the port over the years and about the current health of the environment,” said Miller.


Ingestion of even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for children, and recent studies have shown that there is no safe level of exposure to lead.


            The disclosure of the results of the AIDEA/Cominco reports follows on the heels of a 2001 National Park Service study that was released on June 20, 2001, showing elevated levels of lead, zinc, and cadmium along the haul road that Cominco uses to transport ore from the Red Dog Mine to the port site.


            On July 13, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Michele Brown declined to issue an emergency order halting ore traffic on the haul road until the cause of the contamination could be determined.  On August 21, Governor Knowles also rejected a request that he proclaim a disaster emergency.   


            The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation recently took vegetation samples around the port site, but declined to take soil samples despite being asked to do so by ACAT and other groups.