Mine Operator Sent to Prison for Polluting River

US Department of Justice Apr. 1, 2016

Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that James Slade, of Calgary, Canada, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for violating the federal Clean Water Act.  Slade was convicted of two Clean Water Act crimes for discharging polluted wastewater into the Salmon River as a result of his operation of the Platinum Creek Mine located in western Alaska.  Slade was ordered to serve a one-year term of supervision after he is released from prison.  The Court concluded he did not have the ability to pay a fine.

Evidence at trial showed that the polluted discharges from the mine were hundreds of times over the legal limits set in the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System water quality permit issued for the mine.  The Clean Water Act violations occurred during the 2010 and 2011 mining seasons, and were shown to be repetitive and ongoing.  At the sentencing hearing, the United States presented evidence from a contaminants biologist who took samples of the turbid wastewater being discharged from the mine into the Salmon River in September 2011.  Laboratory analysis conducted on the samples showed that the wastewater from the mine contained toxic levels of metals, including aluminum and copper that can be deadly to fish and aquatic life in the river. 

Prior to imposing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason noted that Slade made a choice to continue the mining production going even after the turbidity levels in the river were off the charts. 

The Salmon River is located in Western Alaska, running past the Platinum Creek Mine and emptying into Kuskokwim Bay.  It passes through the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge before entering the bay, and all five species of Alaska Salmon spawn in the river.  Evidence admitted at trial showed a flow of up to 1200 gallons per minute of wastewater was discharged from the mine’s processing plant into one or more settling ponds that were not lined, and that did not contain the wastewater.  Instead, the wastewater flowed out of the ponds and into the Salmon River, turning it from crystal clear to dirty brown.  More than one million gallons of wastewater was therefore discharged each day the plant operated.

“The public must be able to rely upon companies and their executive to follow the laws that our nation has adopted to protect our rivers and oceans from harmful pollution,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis.  “Mr. Slade and XS Platinum did not follow these laws.  Mr. Slade placed profits above the environment and above the law for his own self-interest.  The mine operators said they were going to do one thing when they submitted their Mine Plan of Operations, and they ended up doing something very different that polluted a Salmon River in Alaska.  Mr. Slade was the Chief Operating Officer and the man in charge at the mine.  His sentence reflects the seriousness of the crime as demonstrated by all the evidence that was gathered thanks to the good work of the EPA, BLM, and all their state and federal partners.”

“Illegal pollution from industrial operations like mining can severely impact the health of Alaska waterways and fish species, like Pacific salmon,” said Ted Owens, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  “This sentence of incarceration shows that EPA is serious about holding people who knowingly break our critically important clean water laws to account.”

Slade was the Chief Operating Officer for XS Platinum, the company that owned the mining claims, and he is the third manager or senior executive of that company to be convicted in this case.  Robert Pate, who was employed as the mine manager previously pled guilty to violating the Clean Water Act, along with James Staeheli, the prior processing plant manager, who also pled guilty to a Clean Water Act crime.  All three individuals worked for the now defunct XS Platinum, Inc.   That company was registered in name only in Delaware, and was 100 percent owned by an offshore company.  Two other senior executives from XS Platinum, both Australian citizens, were also indicted but have refused to return to the United States to stand trial on the charges.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis prosecuted the case along with Senior Trial Attorney Chris Costantini from the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section.  The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Land Management Office of Law Enforcement and Security and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division.

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