Dave Hadden, Heather Hardcastle, Rob Smith, Matt Nykiel: B.C. mines threaten neighbouring U.S. states
Published:August 1, 2019 Updated:August 1, 2019 6:00 PM PDT
The Province, Op-Ed
On June 13, eight U.S. senators from B.C.’s neighbouring states of Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Washington wrote Premier John Horgan about their concerns regarding impacts of B.C. mining practices on downstream U.S. states.
The senators stated: “We write together to highlight efforts of the United States and continued plans of Congress to protect American interests in the face of potential environmental and economic impacts resulting form large-scale hardrock and coal mines in British Columbia. … We remain concerned about the lack of oversight of Canadian mining projects near multiple transboundary rivers that originate in B.C. and flow into our four U.S. states.”
While these four states all bear scars from historic mining, the mines in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana — past and present — do not threaten B.C. water, fish, or local economies. Canada and the U.S. have a long history of cooperation, as well as disputes over trade. As citizens of the U.S., we regret the current tensions between our two countries and we count on things improving. Nevertheless, B.C. mining now significantly threatens downstream states.
B.C. mining in transboundary watersheds must be addressed in a civil, cooperative, and urgent way. B.C. mining operations today, whether existing or proposed, must be subject to similar regulations, and must not degrade the water or fisheries of either country.
We have been heartened by the B.C. auditor-general’s official acknowledgement of deficiencies in B.C.’s mining regulatory environment in her independent report on the mining sector in 2016. However, the potential for great harm to water, fish and the economies of downstream states remains even more urgent today than in 2016, as B.C. is aggressively promoting open-pit mining in the “Golden Triangle” near the B.C.-Alaska border, and impacts in the Kootenay are mounting.
The eight U.S. senators who wrote to Horgan were from both parties (three Democratic and five Republican). These senators see a common threat and acted to Premier Horgan of their concerns.
Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan of Alaska (Republicans) want to maintain the robust salmon fisheries of the Unuk, Stikine and Taku transboundary rivers. Senators Jon Tester (Democrat) and Steve Daines (Republican) of Montana and Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho (Republicans) want water quality in the Kootenay to improve. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (Democrats) of Washington want to protect Puget Sound salmon and the lower Skagit River from a potential Imperial Metals’ copper mine in the Upper Skagit.
The threats to water, fish, and communities downstream of B.C. mines are real. We wish to see a meaningful and timely engagement that resolves differences in mining policy. Balance must be established between neighbours, and priceless natural resources kept whole for future generations.
Dave Hadden is the executive director of Headwaters Montana; Heather Hardcastle is an Alaskan fisherman; Rob Smith is the northwest regional director for National Parks Conservation Association; and Matt Nykiel is a conservation associate with the Idaho Conservation League.
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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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