August 21, 2018
Joint state, congressional letter well-intentioned but misses the target
Salmon Beyond Borders thanks Sen. Dan Sullivan and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott for their July 31 letter to Global Affairs Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada about transboundary mining in shared British Columbia and Alaska watersheds. However, the two seem to have lost sight of the heart of the issue: the need for binding international agreements and financial assurances to protect shared waters. Instead, the letter urges the continued pursuit of non-binding understandings that hinder real action and liability.
Though each issue Sullivan and Mallott identify is significant, the letter omits any mention of financial assurance policies that will ensure mines can clean up disasters in shared watersheds, or that the mines have enough money set aside for reclamation and long-term maintenance. All of the transboundary mines under development in B.C. will have to be treated “in perpetuity” to remove heavy metals that will poison salmon — another way to say “forever.” As just two examples of B.C.’s lax requirements, Teck Resources has been required to post more money in financial assurances for its one Alaska mine than for all five of its B.C. coal mines that drain into Montana, despite the fact they are actively killing fish in downstream U.S. rivers — and Canadian taxpayers ended up paying for $40 million of the cleanup after Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley disaster in the Fraser River watershed, which flows into the ocean just north of the Washington state line.
“Senator Sullivan and Lt. Governor Mallott have been strong for our transboundary rivers, but at the same time, they are letting the B.C. government set the terms, while Alaskans are the ones at risk of losing everything,” said Salmon Beyond Borders Campaign Director Jill Weitz. “While officials on both sides of the border dither, B.C. continues to permit and encourage transboundary mines that don’t follow the recommendations of their own auditor general or the independent review panel after the Mount Polley disaster. We don’t need more conversation about conversation. We need binding financial assurances and action under the Boundary Waters Treaty, and we need leaders like Sullivan and Mallott to keep rattling the cages.”
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