Federal Government Asked for Help in Addressing Transboundary Mining Concerns
November 16, 2017
The joint letter emphasized the “potential catastrophic effects on Alaska’s communities” from upstream mining activities in British Columbia (B.C.) and urged the U.S. federal government to “help protect overall U.S. interests in this situation.” The letter also called the Tulsequah Chief “an example of an inadequate response by the B.C. government.”
Senators Lisa Murkowski, Dan Sullivan, Congressman Don Young, Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott wrote a letter to Secretary Tillerson, seeking his Department’s engagement in their efforts to ensure that British Columbia institutes appropriate safeguards to prevent potential negative effects from the development of large-scale hard rock mine proposals and operations to transboundary waterways and fisheries.
Additionally, the Delegation requested B.C. mining projects and potential impacts to Alaska be included on the agenda for upcoming bilateral meetings between the U.S. Department of State and Global Affairs Canada: “We, like this administration, prioritize the promotion and protection of American economic interests, which in this instance could be threatened by B.C. transboundary mining and inadequate financial mechanisms to assure long term management of toxic wastes and redress for damages from potential releases.”
“Alaskans are out of patience with B.C.’s failure to stop the pollution from the abandoned Tulsequah Chief. B.C.’s failure to clean up the mine is a clear example of why Alaska and the U.S. federal government need to work together to ensure upstream mining in B.C. doesn’t harm our interests downstream,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders.
Zimmer said, “We are glad to see the State of Alaska now working with members of Congress, and hopefully the State Department, to increase pressure on B.C. to honor its responsibilities and promises to remediate the abandoned mine. Today’s letter is an important step in increasing pressure on B.C. However experience has shown us that continued cooperative pressure will be needed to ensure B.C. honors its responsibilities at Tulsequah Chief.”
The Tulsequah Chief mine, located in the Taku River watershed in northwest B.C. close to the Alaska border, was abandoned in 1957 without any remediation. B.C. has wanted a new company to re-open the mine and then clean it up, but two companies have already gone bankrupt trying to re-open the mine and B.C. has done little to stop the illegal pollution. An Aquatic Ecological Risk Assessment released by the B.C. government on July 18 documents “unacceptable risks” from the acid mine drainage.
“After two bankruptcies, it’s clear the Tulsequah Chief is not a viable mine,” said Zimmer. “The only way to stop the illegal and clearly harmful acid mine drainage from the abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine into the salmon-rich Taku watershed is for B.C. to take responsibility for mine cleanup. The new B.C. government needs to take a much more responsible approach with Tulsequah Chief than the previous Clark administration. We’re glad to see Alaska leaders stepping up the pressure on B.C. and Canada.”
Today’s broad concerns about B.C. mining across the transboundary Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds began with the Tulsequah Chief in the late 1990’s.
“The experience with Tulsequah Chief shows us that Alaska needs specific and enforceable protections to ensure that upstream mining in B.C. does not harm our water quality, fisheries and livelihoods,” said Zimmer. “We don’t want to see similar problems crop up at mines that will be much larger than Tulsequah Chief, such as KSM. It is vital that the U.S. government heed the call in today’s letter to join with Alaska leaders to develop measures to protect our fish, water and jobs from upstream mining in B.C.”
The Alaska Delegation's letter stressed the need for communication between the U.S. and Canada on this issue, for Alaskans’ livelihoods and Alaska’s economic stability, but also to industrial development and job security across the entire nation: “Alaska’s economy and culture are directly connected to our natural resources, many of which are nurtured by our vast river systems throughout the state. The Alsek, Chilkat, Taku, Whiting, Stikine, Unuk, Salmon, and Chickamin Watersheds drain from B.C. into Southeast Alaska. Increasing mineral development and legacy mining impacts in the Taku, Stikine and Unuk Watersheds threaten Alaska’s world-renowned salmon runs, which support the commercial fishing and visitor industries and contribute to the way of life for Alaskans throughout the region.”
The letter also explained how Alaska’s fisheries are some of the most productive in the world, and represent the livelihoods and communities that are based around the natural resources of the region.
“Alaska is a resource state and we believe in thoughtful utilization of not only our fisheries but our other natural resources. Mining, like fisheries, is central to our regional economy by providing well-paying jobs and serving as the foundation of America’s manufacturing sector. While we share common resource development interests with our Canadian neighbors, we must be assured that mineral development in B.C. does not disproportionally impact the ecosystem services we depend on in Southeast.”
The letter dated November 13, 2017 asked for consideration on the following requests ahead of the Secretary’s upcoming meetings with the Canadian Delegation:
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Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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