Open Letter to Alaska State Legislators
By Michael Goehring
July 18, 2021
I am writing today in response to your May 7 letter sent to the Honourable John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia, expressing your concerns about the potential impacts of abandoned, active, and future mines on shared waterways between BC and Alaska.
From the perspective of the Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC), it is important to underscore the shared responsibility British Columbia, Alaska, and natural resource industries on both sides of the border hold to ensure the highest standards of environmental protection and transboundary water quality are in place.
As neighbors, we have a shared interest in responsible resource development that effectively balances environmental stewardship and economic development. We share your concern with declining salmon populations on both sides of the border and we have a shared obligation and duty to consult, accommodate and engage in partnerships with Indigenous nations on natural resources and other matters.
I would like to clarify for you the status and nature of the regulatory framework that governs British Columbia’s mining industry. Contrary to assertions in recent media reports that referenced your letter to Premier Horgan, British Columbia’s mining industry meets among the highest regulatory standards in the world for environmental assessment, operational permitting, compliance and enforcement, and post-closure monitoring and reclamation.
Over the past five years, the Government of British Columbia has made substantial changes to the regulatory regime governing mining. This includes changes to the Mines Act, the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines, BC’s water quality guidelines, and the creation of independent review boards for tailings management.
MABC and our members strongly support these policy and organizational improvements, including the 2019 reformulation of the Mines Health, Safety and Reclamation Division. Many BC mining operators have also adopted the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) protocols which are internationally recognized best practices in tailings and water quality management.
We acknowledge your constituents’ concerns regarding the discharge from the Tulsequah Chief mine. Reclamation and closure of this site is imperative. We are pleased with the Province of British Columbia’s continuing efforts to advance options to move the site towards permanent closure and reclamation. We understand that senior officials with the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation provided senior Alaska officials with a detailed briefing and update on these plans on May 19, 2021.
We are pleased with the results of the British Columbia and Alaska Transboundary Working Group on Monitoring (TWG-M). The science-based TWG-M, and the many Indigenous nations and stakeholders that contributed to the TWG-M sampling program found “the overall aquatic conditions of the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk transboundary rivers currently support and maintain aquatic life.” MABC strongly supports ongoing monitoring of these watersheds for potential impacts from mining activities.
We would also like to draw your attention to a recent audit of tailings storage facilities (TSFs) by the independent BC Mines Audit and Effectiveness Unit which compared BC’s regulatory framework with similar regulations in other major mining jurisdictions – including Alaska and Montana – on 13 elements of TSF management and engineering. The audit found BC’s regulatory framework for TSFs is among the best in the world.
To conclude, we share your interest in ensuring that transboundary watersheds are managed under the highest level of regulatory oversight and environmental protection. British Columbia’s mining industry is deeply committed to responsible resource development and fully supports the Government of British Columbia’s rigorous regulatory standards, which are backstopped by strict sanctions for non-compliance.
I trust this correspondence outlines for you our commitment to responsible mining and trans- boundary water quality management, along with the Government of British Columbia’s recent changes to regulation, compliance, and enforcement that applies to BC’s mining industry.
Honourable John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia
Received July 12, 2021 - Published July 18, 2021
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