Alaska’s Republican Congressional Delegation asks Biden Administration to defend American waters from Canadian mine contamination. Will it?
June 28 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JUNEAU—Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, along with Congressman Don Young, have sent a letter of concern to the Biden Administration regarding potential impacts from risky large-scale mines in Canada near transboundary waters that flow into Alaska. The letter, dated June 24, went to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and urges the Department of State and Canada to protect downstream communities from British Columbia (B.C.) mines’ potential negative impacts, in line with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909. In spite of decades of repeated efforts from both Republican and Democratic state and federal lawmakers, a proven record of failures in B.C., and repeated requests from sovereign Indigenous nations, B.C. has continued to heavily industrialize and put at risk the international salmon rivers vital to the Tongass National Forest. The ball is now in the Biden Administration’s court.
The letter highlights that seven years after Canada’s worst environmental disaster, at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine, Americans are still not protected “from the potential downstream impacts of B.C.’s large-scale mines.” It also follows a report released on June 18, 2021 by the British Columbia government, highlighting that B.C. has failed to follow through on its commitments to prioritize human health and environmental safety in its mining regulations. Those commitments were made after the 2016 B.C. Auditor General reported that when it comes to the mining industry, “B.C. is failing on every level to protect human health and the environment.”
“We are very thankful that our congressional delegation continues to alert the Department of State regarding this complex international issue, especially as our wild salmon populations are struggling in the face of the climate crisis. But so far, these letters have fallen short to garner the attention of Secretaries of State. Thousands of Alaskans are united in asking to protect our coastal communities from B.C. — the bad neighbors next door — and we have been waiting, so far in vain, for our federal government to defend American interests and communities from existing and threatened Canadian mine contamination. President Biden has committed to initiatives like America the Beautiful and the Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership. If those commitments are to have any real meaning, Secretary Blinken must take immediate action to prevent our vital international salmon rivers from being completely overrun with poorly regulated, polluting mines in Canada,” said Salmon Beyond Borders Director Jill Weitz.
Lawmakers representing all U.S. states bordering B.C. have asked B.C. Premier Horgan to address B.C.’s shortcomings and to stop contaminating U.S. watersheds. Earlier this month, Senator John Tester submitted a letter to Secretary Blinken requesting that he engage with Canada regarding B.C. selenium leaching from Teck Coal’s (Teck Resources) mining operations along the Elk River in Canada and into Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River in Montana. Twenty-five Washington lawmakers sent a letter to B.C. Premier in May of 2021, and Alaska state lawmakers have done the same. Furthermore, in 2019, the Senate delegations from Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana — every state downstream of British Columbia — submitted a bipartisan, joint letter of concern to B.C. Premier John Horgan, expressing concerns that B.C.’s industrialization of the headwaters of shared rivers will negatively affect shared resources.
“All sectors of Southeast Alaska, including Tribes, commercial and sport fishermen, business owners, municipalities, and hard working Alaskans, are united with the congressional delegation’s efforts to attract attention and action from the Department of State. What is missing from this renewed delegation letter is the signature of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy,” said Weitz. “Without it, B.C. and its mining industry continue to block action, claiming division amongst Alaska’s elected officials. In all four states downstream — Washington, Idaho, and Montana as well — Canada is reluctant to correct its liabilities and is attempting to prevent the Department of State from taking action. Until B.C. is accountable for the ramifications of industrializing the headwaters of some of North America’s last remaining great wild salmon rivers, B.C. remains a liability to Canada, to the global markets, and to companies seeking to invest in responsible resource development.”
Jill Weitz, Salmon Beyond Borders, firstname.lastname@example.org, 907.957.9504
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. It is united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs, and way of life.