In northwest British Columbia (B.C.), a mining boom is underway that could threaten Southeast Alaska’s salmon, rivers, fishing and tourism jobs, and unique way of life. Spurred by weakened environmental and fishery regulations and the construction of a massive new power line, over a dozen industrial mines are undergoing permitting or advanced exploration in the mineral-rich region bordering Southeast Alaska.
At least five of these Canadian mineral projects are located in transboundary watersheds of key salmon rivers including the Taku, the Stikine and the Unuk. These mines are likely to produce acid mine drainage and toxic heavy metals that could harm Southeast Alaska’s lucrative fishing and tourism industries as well as the traditional practices of Alaska Native tribes. These large-scale projects offer few, if any, economic benefits to the region.
The Taku, Stikine and Unuk Rivers start in Canada and flow into Southeast Alaska. All support significant commercial, sport, and customary and traditional fisheries in Southeast Alaska. The Taku is often Southeast Alaska’s largest overall salmon producer, with the region’s most prolific runs of coho and king salmon. The Stikine is usually a close second. The Unuk is one of Southeast’s top five king salmon producers and its eulachon run provides an important customary and traditional fishery. In addition to king and coho salmon, all three of these rivers support large populations of pink, chum, and sockeye salmon, as well as steelhead, Dolly Varden, and bull trout.
Salmon fishing - including commercial, sport and subsistence fishing - supports more than 7,000 jobs in Southeast Alaska and pumps $1 billion into the regional economy every year. Any pollution flowing across the border into Alaska waters from Canada could jeopardize this critically important industry.
Southeast Alaska’s tourism industry provides an estimated 10,000 jobs and injects an estimated $1 billion annually to the regional economy. This blue-chip industry could be tarnished by B.C. mine development upstream.
Currently, there are no enforceable policies in place to safeguard Alaska’s fish and clean water, and the jobs they support, from upstream industrial development.
The proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) gold-copper mine located in the headwaters of the Unuk River calls for three large open pits, an underground mine, and enormous tailings dumps for billions of tons of acid-generating rock. Over 250 individuals and groups recently commented on the KSM project environmental analysis.
Proposed for re-opening, the Tulsequah Chief mine, located on the Tulsequah River upstream of its confluence with the Taku River, has been polluting the Tulsequah River with acid mine drainage since 1957. Despite this ongoing violation of the Canadian Fisheries Act, agencies have taken little action to stop the pollution.
The proposed Galore Creek mine is located on Galore Creek, which flows into the Scud River, a salmon-producing tributary of the Stikine River. Tailings would be submerged in Round Lake, which drains into the Iskut River, the major tributary to the Stikine.
The proposed Schaft Creek project is located between Schaft Creek and Mess Creek, a tributary of the Stikine River. Mining the deposit would generate 100 million tons of waste rock in an area with extremely high seasonal water flow.
The Red Chris mine is located near the headwater lakes of the Iskut River, a major tributary of the Stikine River. Several hundred million tons of tailings and waste rock would be submerged in Black Lake, which drains into the Iskut River.
Each of these mines would pose the threat of acid mine drainage for centuries, if not in perpetuity. KSM andGalore Creek require huge tailings dams that will have to be maintained for hundreds of years. Water treatment for acid mine drainage and other contaminants such as selenium will likely be needed in perpetuity, yet the mine proposals do not include mechanisms to assure adequate funding for long-term treatment.
A giant tailings dam ruptured early Monday (8/4/14) morning at a B.C. copper and gold mine, releasing roughly
five million cubic meters of toxic wastewater into the Fraser River watershed - press release
See what people are saying about Transboundary Watersheds in the news:
B.C. Approves $5.3 billion copper-gold KSM Mine - Globe and Mail, July 30, 2014
Province Approves $5.3 billion KSM copper and gold mine project in Northern B.C.
Massive project near Stewart still needs financing and federal approval before it goes ahead - Vancouver Sun, July 30, 2014
Northwest Gold Mine Gets B.C. Approval - Alberni Valley News, Port Alberni, B.C, July 30, 2014
KSM Mine Project Near Stewart Issued BC Environmental Assessment Certificate - CJFW-FM, Terrace, B.C., July 30, 2014
New Gold Mine Gets Provincial Approval - CKNW-AM, Vancouver, B.C., July 30, 2014
KSM Mine Wins Environmental Approval from British Columbia Government - CoastAlaska, July 30, 2014
United Transboundary Tribal Mining Work Group to Hit B.C. Mines - I Think Mining blog, July 30, 2014
Will KSM Suffer Same Fate as Pebble? - Mining.com, July 30, 2014
Canadian Mining Project Bears Worrying Similarity to Pebble - Undercurrentnews.com, July 29, 2014
Canadian Prospect Worries Southeast Fishermen - Cordova Times, July 25, 2014
The Transboundary Conundrum - Drake Magazine, July 2014
BC’s KSM mine nears environmental approval - CoastAlaska, July 24, 2014
Add your say! Comments due on AK mines, MSA, sea lions - Alaska Fish Radio, July 24, 2014
Final Public Comments for KSM Mine - CFTK-TV, Terrace, British Columbia, July 23, 2014
BC Mine Project Raises Concerns Over Salmon Habitat - Fishermen’s News Online, July 23, 2014
Alaska Concerns with KSM Project - CKRW Radio, Whitehorse, Yukon, July 23, 2014
B.C. mines to get financial boost, one to open soon - CoastAlaska, July 17, 2014
B.C. mine developers defend near-border projects - CoastAlaska, June 17, 2014
$5.3 billion B.C. gold mine faces major obstacles - Business Vancouver, June 10
Gold mining – Alaska - Living on Earth (PRI), aired week of June 6
Off the Beaten Path: Hope for Wild Salmon - Juneau Empire, May 23, 2014
Tribes Cross Borders to Take on Canadian Mines - KRBD-FM, May 19, 2014
Canadian Mine Projects Pose Concerns for Fisheries - The Cordova Times, May 16, 2014
Gold Fever Ails Alaska Borders - Juneau Empire, May 16, 2014
British Columbia Mines Pose Concerns for Southeast Alaska Fisheries - Fishermen’s News, May 14, 2014
Taking a Firm Stand Against Certain Advances - Canadian Mining Journal, May 2014
Canadian Mines Proposed Upriver from Alaskan Rivers - KTUU News, Anchorage, AK, May 11, 2014
Mining for Answers - First Alaskans, Spring 2014
Conflict will be the Norm if Mining Company Ignores our Concerns - Huffington Post, May 5, 2014
Alaska Natives and First Nations Unite to Fight Mining Threat to Salmon Habitat - Indian Country Today Media Network, May 2, 2014
Mining Industry Fights Back Against Environmentalists - BC Business, May 2, 2014
KSM: Leaving Alaskans with all risk, zero benefit - Juneau Empire, April 27, 2014
Ad sponsored by Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs First Nation and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska - Vancouver Sun, April 26, 2014
No guarantees with KSM mine - Juneau Empire, April 11, 2014
KSM part III: 'A perfect storm' for mining push? - Juneau Empire, April 11, 2014
KSM Pt. 2: A river runs through it, and that’s the problem - Juneau Empire, April 4, 2014
Boost in B.C. Mining has Alaska Fishermen Nervous - Alaska Public Media, March 28, 2014
Anti-KSM groups seek federal help - Juneau Empire, March 27, 2014
Clark’s mining push meets resistance - Globe and Mail, Mar. 26 2014
Southeast Alaska Seafood Harvesters Concerned Over Canadian Mine Plans - Fishermen’s News, March 26, 2104
U.S. Groups Express Concern about Canadian Projects - Energy & Environment, March 26, 2014
Southeast Tribes Meet in Craig about Canadian Mines - CoastAlaska, March 20, 2014
Alaska officials need to pay attention to BC mines - Juneau Empire, March 13, 2014
Transboundary impacts on Southeast fishing - Juneau Empire, March 2, 2014
Native band downstream from proposed B.C. mine fears long-term pollution - Globe and Mail, Feb. 12 2014
Legal Challenge from Taku River Tlingit First Nation Threatens Major Mine Permit - Marketwatch, February 3, 2014
First Nations Tribe Concerned About KSM - KRBD-FM, January 29, 2014
Fishermen: Canadian gold mine endangers salmon - Anchorage Daily News, October 19, 2013
Groups: B.C.’s Proposed KSM Mine 'Looming Train Wreck' for Southeast - Juneau Empire, October 18, 2013
Save Our Salmon by Submitting Comment - Juneau Empire, October 18, 2013