Over the last four years of the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign, we’ve seen a groundswell of support throughout Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. Resolutions from dozens of Alaska municipalities and Tribes, and the calls from tens of thousands of local citizens, have driven engagement at all levels of government throughout the region and in Washington, D.C..
But as Alaskans downstream face a ticking clock, new B.C. transboundary mine projects have progressed from exploration to development and two have begun operations. On August 4, 2014, Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine tailings dam failed, releasing 24 million cubic meters of tailings waste into the Fraser River watershed. Less than one year later in 2015, the same company that operates Mt. Polley was authorized by the B.C. government to begin operations at its Red Chris mine in the Stikine-Iskut watershed, using the same kind of wet tailings storage technology that resulted in the Mt. Polley mine disaster. The State of Alaska, Alaska Tribes, and downstream municipalities were not notified or involved in the permitting of this project, regardless of the fact that the Red Chris mine tailings storage facility is seven times the size of Mt. Polley’s and holds back acid generating materials. In 2017 Brucejack mine began operations in the Unuk river watershed, which also is the proposed site for the acid-generating Kerr-Sulphurets Mitchell (KSM) project, owned by Seabridge Gold. KSM would be the largest open-pit mine in Canada, located only 30 kilometers from the Alaska - B.C. border.
Although experts like those who comprised the expert panel to review the Mt. Polley tailings dam failure, and the B.C. Auditor General, have all claimed that mining practices in British Columbia must improve, business continues as usual.
It’s time to ramp up our efforts and work with our neighboring communities… so Salmon Beyond Borders is officially going international!
Meet our new B.C. organizers, Celine Trojand and Mary Leighton!
Northwest B.C. is in the midst of a mining boom. One that’s happening out of the public eye, yet in one of the most pristine regions of the province. The Taku, Stikine, and Unuk rivers create intact watersheds that are critical habitat for some of the world’s most valuable salmon runs and wildlife. On the U.S. side of the border, these rivers are designated as National Monuments, National Forests, and wilderness areas with special protections. On the Canadian side of the border, these systems have no such protection and are being developed by a mining industry that the U.N. ranks as the second worst in the world, right behind China. And did you know that B.C. taxpayers are the ones who have to pay when disaster strikes on the BC side of the border?! British Columbians have already paid $40 million toward initial clean up of the Mt. Polley mine disaster, and that’s just scratching the surface of what needs to be done.
Here’s what we want: Binding international agreements between Canada, the U.S. and Indigenous Nations that address: financial liability, joint funding for ongoing water quality monitoring, and transparency in the permitting process across all jurisdictions.
Salmon Beyond Borders is working to educate and empower Alaska and B.C. communities to defend and sustain our rivers, jobs, and way of life.
To do that, we’re going to need support on both sides of the AK-B.C. border.
Share this blog post with your friends in BC, talk to your neighbors about this issue, invite them to check out our website and video and encourage them to add their name to our letter to Canadian and U.S. officials.
Interested in volunteering with us in B.C.? Contact Celine and Mary.
Mary Leighton is a third generation Vancouverite. She grew up sailing around the British Columbia coast, collecting sea grass and dropping crab traps. She was living abroad when in 2014 Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved the Enbridge oil pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the B.C. coast. She saw science being ignored and local communities being overruled, but she also saw the possibility of British Columbians coming together and successfully defending their province (which they did!). Mary moved back to Vancouver and started a new path in community organizing, volunteer training, and politics.
Now Mary is excited about the growing solidarity among people in the Pacific Northwest to defend the sacred places and the resources that have sustained people here for thousands of years – fresh water and wild salmon. She will be focusing her energies on raising awareness of "out of sight, out of mind" risks and developing local leaders in Southwestern B.C. She looks forward to connecting with people and building relationships for the long run.
Email Mary: email@example.com
Celine Trojand grew up on the prairies of Northeast BC but in 2009 she found her sea legs on board an old wooden fishing boat in the Douglas channel, travelling the proposed crude oil tanker route for the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal. The boat smelled like tar and the weather got a bit rough but she caught her first salmon and attended a feast in Hartley Bay. What enduring love doesn’t start with food?
After her trip she committed (with the salmon as witness) to work with communities in defence of our land, air and water. In the decade since she’s made good on her promise and organized, trained, acted and strategized with dozens of BC’s most effective conservation groups. She’s learned that organized people can overcome anything – dysfunctional democracies, corporate agendas, social isolation and even foolhardy Texan business men. She’ll be focusing on building SBB support in Northwest BC and northern Vancouver Island.
Last year Celine moved to Kitwanga where she’s building a little house and dreaming of a day when our rivers are secure and abundant and she can finally run a small sled dog team.
Email Celine: firstname.lastname@example.org
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, united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs and way of life.
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