Red Chris Mine Opening: One More Reason Alaskans Can’t Trust B.C. Government
Salmon Beyond Borders learned through the media today that a large-scale Canadian mine, Red Chris, has opened in the headwaters of southeast Alaska’s Stikine River, one of the state’s most prolific salmon producers. Red Chris –owned by the same company responsible for the Mount Polley mine disaster --is one of six large-scale mines that British Columbia is aggressively developing in the transboundary region straddling B.C. and Alaska. Alaskans apparently received no advance notice that the opening of Red Chris was imminent, a move that underscores Salmon Beyond Borders’ position that Alaskans cannot trust the B.C. government to protect Alaska’s interests. Upstream from the southeast Alaska communities of Wrangell and nearby Petersburg, Red Chris has the potential to unleash acid mine drainage, heavy metals and other pollutants into southeast Alaska’s pristine waters, threatening multi-billion dollar seafood and tourism industries and indigenous cultures of the region.
The opening of Red Chris follows Friday’s report on the Mount Polley mine disaster last August. An independent review panel, appointed by the B.C. government, found that weaknesses in the foundation of Mount Polley’s dam were the main cause of the catastrophe and it recommended stricter safety standards for B.C. mines. The panel described Mount Polley as a “loaded gun” waiting to go off. The Mount Polley disaster caused an estimated 6.6 billion gallons of toxic mine waste and wastewater to flow into the Fraser River watershed. The Fraser is one of Canada’s most important salmon-producing rivers. Alaskans, including the state’s congressional delegation, have been calling for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to activate the International Joint Commission (IJC) to investigate the multitude of mine developments in the transboundary region and how they could impact Alaska’s downstream waters. Today’s news that Red Chris – owned by Imperial Metals, the same company that owns Mount Polley – should be a loud wake-up call for Sec. Kerry that the time to get the IJC involved is now. Last night, Juneau became the latest southeast Alaska city to endorse such action.
It’s clear that B.C. is pursuing large-scale mining at all costs, regardless of the enormous risks to Alaska’s downstream communities, fisheries and tourism. Today’s news that the B.C. government allowed Red Chris to begin operating before the ink was even dry on the Mount Polley report, and without even the courtesy of letting Alaskans know, is appalling. The public needs to send a message loud and clear that Alaskans will not stand by and allow their waters to be threatened in such a disrespectful manner.
Click here to add your voice to the call on Sec. Kerry to take action.