Division of Spill Prevention and Response


Red Dog Mine

Database Name: Red Dog Mine

Status: Active

Location: North of Kotzebue

Latitude: See database entries

Longitude: See database entries

See information on dust issues on DEC's Air Quality Program web pages on Red Dog

DEC Contaminated Sites contact: Robert Weimer, Project Manager - 907-269-7525

Contacts updated: January 2015

Click on photos or maps for larger versions.
Summary updated: January 2015

This web page is designed to show current information to control fugitive dust and prevent health effects to people living or working near the Red Dog Mine, north of Kotzebue and near the communities of Kivalina and Noatak. For information concerning other environmental issues on the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) web site which relate to the mine, type "Red Dog" into the search window at the upper right corner of this page.

air monitoring in Kivalina and Noatak

Air monitoring in Noatak and Kivalina:
On the right in this photo is a sampling unit to measure dust in the air (total suspended particulates) in the village of Kivalina. A similar unit monitors the air in Noatak. Air particles are then tested for lead content. Results indicate levels far below national ambient air standards.

Located on the left is a monitor to test for a specific size of dust particles (PM-10), a project overseen by the Manillaq Association.


The Red Dog Mine is located in the DeLong Mountains north of Noatak, about 90 miles north of Kotzebue and approximately 55 miles inland from the Chukchi Sea, in the western end of the Brooks Range of Northern Alaska. Red Dog mine is located on land owned by the NANA Regional Corporation, Inc., an Alaska Native corporation. Teck Cominco Alaska Inc. operates the mine. Operations began in 1989.

Ore containing lead sulfide and zinc sulfide is mined and milled to produce concentrated lead and zinc powder. These concentrates are trucked year-round from the mine along a 55-mile road through Cape Krusenstern National Monument to the shallow-water port for storage and eventual loading onto ships when the port is ice-free, only about 100 days a year. From the storage buildings the concentrated ores travel on an enclosed conveyor system to the ship loader and into barges. The barges have built-in and enclosed conveyors to load the holds of deep-water ships.

A moss study performed in 2000 by the National Park Service (Ford and Hasselbach 2001, downloadable pdf file, 699K) found elevated concentrations of metals in tundra along the road and near the port, apparently resulting from escaping ("fugitive") dust from operations along the transportation corridor. ADEC began work to determine the extent of contamination from this dust along the DeLong Mountain Regional Transportation System (DMTS), which includes the entire transportation corridor from the mine to the port, including the road, the port facilities, and the barges. The Contaminated Sites program is now overseeing that work and also addressing historic spills of petroleum products at the mine.


Teck Cominco has made a number of operational changes in the past few years to reduce fugitive dust from its operations (see more detail below). In the meantime, a remedial investigation is being conducted for Teck Cominco by the firm Exponent to assess the public health and environmental impacts of fugitive dust deposited along the transportation system. The first step was to characterize the contamination, then assess the risk to nearby residents, workers, subsistence food gatherers and the environment Based on information in the risk assessment, DEC will determine what next actions need to be taken at the site to minimize risk to human health and the environment.

Public Health and Environmental Concerns

Of concern is possible exposure to elevated concentrations of metals, particularly lead, zinc and cadmium, found in the soil, mosses and dust on vegetation adjacent to the haul road. As a result, metals present in the ore concentrates and in the environments surrounding the haul road are being evaluated through the risk assessment process.

A study conducted in 2001 by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Environmental Public Health Program, found that it was safe to continue eating subsistence foods. Also, prior work found that the form of lead present in the concentrates is less easily absorbed by the body than other forms of lead. The risk assessment evaluated these exposures and risks in greater detail.


Organic compounds associated with past petroleum hydrocarbon spills were not part of the risk assessment because they occur in localized areas, primarily at the port site. These organic compounds generally remain at depth or beneath pavement, and therefore are not in a place where current human exposure occurs.


Current Status

The areas surrounding the DMTS where fugitive dust has been deposited are being evaluated to determine what risks the fugitive dust deposition poses to human health and the environment and what actions may be necessary to reduce those risks. The process used is the state's contaminated sites cleanup process laid out in regulation (see more on the cleanup process). This process allows a risk assessment to be conducted to get very specific information to estimate possible risks to humans, plants, animals and the environment posed by current and future exposure to metals in soil, water, sediments, and biota in areas surrounding the DMTS.


The risk assessment evaluates whether people and the environment could be exposed to possibly hazardous substances and assesses what the risks are from exposure. It is used by DEC managers to determine whether any additional cleanup or control measures are necessary. During preparation of the risk assessment residents provided information about how they use the land and what foods they gather so this information can be considered. Much information has been gathered from village meetings and direct contact with DEC, and has been incorporated into the risk assessment.

Summary of work, 2001 - 2014


Fugitive dust control measures: Improvements have been made to equipment and operations at the port to control fugitive dust. Monitoring programs continue to help assess the results of the improvements. Here are more details on these efforts, provided by Teck Cominco:


More Information, Recent Reports