U.S.Secretary of State Urged to Defend U.S. Interests from Canadian Transboundary Mines
October 09, 2018
Today, Salmon Beyond Borders expressed their thanks to the delegation for their October 2, 2018 letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the U.S. Department of State to act to defend Alaskan interests, salmon, and salmon-producing rivers from under-regulated mining activity in transboundary British Columbian / Alaskan watersheds.
The request follows up on a November 13, 2017 letter from the lawmakers to then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with similar asks. This letter, however, specifically requests the State Department deliver this “strong message” to Global Affairs Canada at the U.S. - Canada bilateral meetings later this month in Ottawa.??
The October 2nd letter also reiterates “that the Department’s representatives impress upon their Canadian counterparts the critical need for binding protections, joint water quality monitoring, and financial assurances to protect Americans downstream of large-scale Canadian mines.”
Salmon Beyond Borders Campaign Director Jill Weitz said she was thrilled the letter urges those actions, specifically. ?
Weitz said, “The development of large-scale open-pit B.C. mines in watersheds that flow into Alaska is moving forward at a mind-blowing pace, while the cleanup of mines like the bankrupt Tulsequah Chief, which has been polluting the Taku River watershed for more than 60 years, is at a seemingly constant stand-still. With the uncertainties regarding Imperial Metals' financial standing, we need enforceable protections now, before the Red Chris mine goes bankrupt and begins polluting the Stikine River on a far greater scale.”
Weitz said, “This unity and leadership from Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, Representative Young, Governor Walker, and Lt. Governor Mallott during otherwise politically divisive times is in direct response to their constituents. Fishermen, tribes, businesses, municipalities, and nearly 10,000 Alaskans have called for these measures to help ensure Alaskan economies and ways of life stay healthy for generations to come."
The Alaska Delegation wrote in their letter, “We write to express our appreciation for the Administration’s preliminary efforts to protect American interests in the face of potential environmental harm from large-scale hard rock mines in Canada that lack fundamental international oversight.” The Alaska Delegation wrote, “These Canadian mining projects are located near transboundary rivers that flow from British Columbia into four U.S. states, including Alaska, and, if managed poorly, pose a threat to Southeast Alaska’s flourishing commercial fishing and tourism industries.”
Earlier, in November 2017 the Alaska Delegation sent a letter to then-Secretary Rex Tillerson urging the State Department to prioritize transboundary watersheds, bringing this important issue to the Cabinet level. That letter has been followed by sustained efforts on behalf of the Delegations to engage with their Canadian counterparts and work towards accountability for mining projects that may affect transboundary watersheds. Specifically, the Alaska Delegation has repeatedly stressed the need for binding protections, joint water quality monitoring, and financial assurances to ensure mine operators in British Columbia will be held accountable for any impacts to transboundary water quality that might threaten Alaskan livelihoods or subsistence.
“It is clear that this Administration takes the issue of transboundary watersheds very seriously. We therefore urge the Administration, through your Department, to deliver a strong message in defense of American interests at the next U.S. - Canada bilateral meetings in Ottawa in October 2018. We specifically request that the Department’s representatives impress upon their Canadian counterparts the critical need for binding protections, joint water quality monitoring, and financial assurances to protect Americans downstream of large-scale Canadian mines, as outlined in our 2017 letter,” the Delegation wrote. “We appreciate the Administration’s efforts to date. American resources, communities, and industries must not be harmed by developments upstream in British Columbia.
In the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2019, currently being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski included $1.5 million in the Senate version for stream gauges to monitor water quality on transboundary rivers, a $1 million increase from fiscal year 2017 funding levels, and directed the U.S. Geological Survey to enter into a formal partnership with local tribes and other agencies to help develop a water quality strategy for transboundary rivers.
In February 2018, Senator Sullivan and Lt. Governor Mallott traveled to Ottawa, Canada, to meet with senior officials in the Canadian government to discuss the transboundary mining issues impacting Southeast Alaska. In August 2018, they followed up with a letter to the Minister of Environment Catherine McKenna and Minister of International Trade James Carr, thanking the Canadians for their attention to transboundary mining issues, while continuing to stress several key areas of concern that require attention.
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Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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