March 17 (Reuters) - Teck Resources TCKb.TOTCK.N is facing an appeal by native and environmental groups of a planned expansion of its Red Dog zinc mine in Alaska, the largest zinc mine in the world.
The environmental permits cover the Aqqaluk deposit, to which Teck intends to gradually shift mining this year, as the current deposit is expected to be depleted in 2011.
Teck has said any delay beyond May will likely force it to stop production in October, as it needs ore from Aqqaluk to supplement the declining grades of the remaining ore in the main deposit.
Below are key facts of the Red Dog mine:
* While Red Dog operated by Teck, the land is leased from the NANA Regional Corporation, which is a native Alaskan development corporation.
* The open-pit mine produced 582,500 tonnes of zinc concentrate and 131,500 tonnes of lead concentrate in 2009.
* The concentrates are shipped to Teck’s smelter in Trail, British Columbia, as well as to customers in Asia and Europe.
* Red Dog accounts for about 80 percent of zinc mined in the United States. About half of the product is used for galvanizing steel, while the rest is used in zinc-based alloys, to create brass and bronze, as well as in agriculture, chemicals, paint and rubber.
* The mine also accounts for almost 30 percent of the lead concentrate mined in the United States, most of which is used in the battery industry.
* For a graphic on Red Dog zinc and lead output, click: here
* The Aqqaluk ore body, located adjacent to the original Red Dog pit, is expected to effectively double the lifespan of the mine, which opened in 1989. The deposit holds 51.6 million tonnes of proven and probable reserve grading 16.7 percent zinc and 4.4 percent lead.
* The expansion has the backing of Alaska’s political and business establishment, but environmentalists have said the mine has inflicted years of harm on the fragile Arctic environment.
* Environmentalists point to studies finding that harvests of caribou and beluga in the vicinity of the mine have fallen to less than half of pre-mine levels.
* Red Dog has been cited in the past by federal and state regulators for improperly releasing sediments and metals into the water and air.
* Most recently, Teck agreed in September to pay $120,000 to settle a series of wastewater discharge violations alleged by the EPA.
* Several environmental and tribal groups have appealed a renewed National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which was due to come into effect on March 1.
* The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a notice clarifying which specific parts of the permit are subject to appeal, but until that happens, the entire permit is on hold.
* The appeal was filed on Feb. 17, and the EPA usually issues its notice with 30 days of an appeal. (Reporting by Cameron French; Reuters graphic by Stephen Culp; editing by Simon Jessop)