Red Dog Mine is one of the world’s largest zinc and lead mines, located about 170 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle in northwest Alaska, near Kotzebue. The mine opened in 1989 and it is still operating, under an operating agreement between NANA, the land owner or the Alaska Native Regional Corp, and the mine operator -- Teck Resources Ltd   .
"Zero harm, zero injuries, whole families. We embrace practices that protect people, property and the environment, wherever we are", states NANA’s website .
However, in its years of operating, the Red Dog mine, has realeased about millions of kg of toxic chemicals, which were spilled to two nearby small towns Kotzebue and Kivalina. This comes from escaped dust from the haul road from the mine towards the coast. Both the towns are situated 120 km south of the mine  . The are 83,578 pounds of cadmium compounds, 1,435,542 pounds of chromium compounds, 415,802 pounds of mercury compounds, and 319,192,113 pounds of lead compounds, all of which was reportedly disposed of on-site at the mine. The towns are considered the most polluted communities in the USA due to the mine toxic activities over the years .
In the villages residents practice a traditional way of life and relay on the surrounding environment for their livelihoods and health, but the enormous toxic realise from the mine contaminated their lands and waters .
Residents and environmentalists from the Alaska Community Action on Toxics group argue how the company releases the toxic compounds without reporting it to the official governmental environmental agency: “The mining industry will make the argument this is just waste rock, but the fact is they are bringing this large amount of heavy metal-concentrated ore to the Earth’s surface" .
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Red Dog Mine creates more toxic waste than any other operation in the United States. But, almost all of the toxic waste reported by Red Dog are rocks (waste rock and tailings) which do not leave the site, but that "naturally" contain >2% sulfide minerals .
The environmentalists furthermore fear that these lands, in and around the mine as well as in areas adjacent to the road used to haul ore from the mine to the coast, are going to be contaminated for the foreseeable future .
In the country, Toxic realeases Inventory is needed and requires industrial facilities involved in manufacturing, mining, power generation and other sectors to report exactly how much toxic material, from a list of about 650 toxic chemicals, they release into the environment. The goal is to alert communities to the possibility that they might be exposed to toxic chemicals, and the inventory has often been used by environmental organizations, community groups, and labor unions across the country .
However, in Kotzebue, city officials do not appear to be informed nor familiar with the releases nor recognize the danger of contamination. “As far as I know it is safe,” said Kotzebue City Manager. “And as far as toxic releases, I wasn’t aware of anything like that.” But in Kivalina there is growing concern about the mine  . In 2004, Kivalina residents filed a lawsuit over pollution violations at the Red Dog Mine  .
The Teck Cominco Ltd company has agreed to pay up to $120 million for a wastewater pipeline to settle a lawsuit by Kivalina villagers who claimed mine pollution was fouling their drinking water and the fish that are a staple of their diet . The 2004 lawsuit alleged that the Red Dog Mine had thousands of Clean Water Act violations in the late 1990s .
Still the mining sector claim this water is not contamined, but people of Kivalina are not convinced .
“We started hearing and seeing the people getting sick, especially the newborns, with issues we have never seen before” [...]“We believe it is from drinking [water contaminated by] the Red Dog Mine over the last 25 years” .
The village is trying to get the EPA to test for possible contamination in the village and surrounding area . A 2001 National Park Service report documented elevated levels of lead, cadmium, and zinc in vegetation along the road, as well as near the storage area by the port. Concentrations of lead and cadmium, the National Park Service report stated, exceed levels of permitted concentration .
The mine is expected to continue operating until 2031, due to expansions from Red Dog’s original deposit into new deposits called Aqqaluk and Qanaiyaq. Currently, all Red Dog production is from those deposits .