JUNEAU—It was with interest that Salmon Beyond Borders learned Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy is in Vancouver for the Association for Mineral Exploration conference this week to tout Alaska mining, and that British Columbia’s transboundary mining will be a topic of discussion for Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang. Lest the administration forget, Alaskans are demanding binding protections from Canada’s mines.
“Alaska tribes, fishermen, municipalities, and thousands of residents have made clear that B.C.’s large-scale open pit mines near the Taku, Stikine/Iskut, and Unuk/Nass rivers, many of which have insanely massive tailings dams at their headwaters, pose direct downstream threats to our salmon, jobs, and way of life,” said Salmon Beyond Borders Director Jill Weitz. “As a new series of maps show, B.C.’s gold-rush era mining laws allow whole watersheds to be staked for exploitation without a consideration of cumulative effects. Unfortunately, what we see in the media and understand from British Columbia’s government is that the State of Alaska has been downplaying Alaskans’ and the Congressional Delegation’s concerns regarding the need for financial assurances and binding protections for the downstream communities that depend upon our billion dollar fisheries and visitor industries. Southeast Alaska has nothing to gain but everything to lose from these Canadian projects.”
In a July 2019 op-ed, Commissioners Corri Feige (Alaska Department of Natural Resources), Doug Vincent-Lang (ADF&G) and Jason Brune (Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation), all of whom are also in Vancouver for the mining conference, confirmed that “Alaska remains committed to maintaining both high water quality standards and responsible mineral development in the transboundary waters.” In a May 6, 2019 letter, Governor Dunleavy confirmed that when it comes to transboundary engagement, “the Governor’s Office continues to take the lead on behalf of the State of Alaska.”
“Southeast Alaska tribes, communities, and the Alaska delegation are all deeply concerned about impacts from B.C. mines and the province’s track record, which is far from ‘responsible’” Weitz continued. “That lack of responsibility is clear from, in many instances, the lack of consent from First Nations; ongoing acid mine drainage from the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine in the Taku River watershed, which B.C. has failed to solve for six decades; and the lack of accountability and oversight responsible for the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster — Canada’s worst environmental disaster — which flooded 6.6 billion gallons of mine waste into the Fraser River watershed and has still resulted in no charges against the mine’s owner, Imperial Metals. If Governor Dunleavy is truly at the helm, he must not follow B.C. and B.C. mining companies’ lead. Instead, the Governor and the Commissioners must amplify concerns from thousands of Alaskans, including our Congressional Delegation, commercial and sport fishing powerhouses, business owners, and Southeast tribes. For Southeast Alaska, Mount Polley is not an abstraction. It is a nightmare to be avoided.”
Salmon Beyond Borders is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tourism and recreation business owners, and concerned citizens, in collaboration with Tribes and First Nations. We are united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs, and way of life.