Brucejack Mine Approval Last Week is Latest Signal that U.S. State Department Needs to Act and Address Concerns Regarding Canada’s Mining Boom in the Salmon-rich Transboundary Region Straddling Alaska and B.C.
(JUNEAU, Alaska) - A new Canadian mine in a transboundary watershed close to Alaska has moved closer to breaking ground.
Brucejack gold and silver mine received approval on Friday from British Columbia's provincial government. The proposed mine, which still requires Canadian federal government approval, is located about 25 miles upstream from the Southeast Alaska border and Misty Fjords National Monument.
The Brucejack project sits in the headwaters of the Unuk River, which flows across the boundary from British Columbia (B.C.) into Alaska. The Unuk is one of Southeast Alaska's largest king salmon rivers. It drains into Misty Fjords, a national monument and one of Alaska's most popular tourist destinations. Tailings, or mine waste, from Brucejack operations would be stored underground and buried in a nearby lake, according to a press release issued Friday by the B.C. provincial government. Alaskans are concerned that polluted run-off from this mine, coupled with the cumulative impacts from several other mining projects in the area, will harm Southeast Alaska's pristine water quality, lucrative fishing and tourism industries, and salmon-centric way of life.
Situated adjacent to the massive Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine, also in the Unuk River watershed, Brucejack is one of many mining projects in various stages of development that have Alaskans alarmed because of their potential to harm the waters and fish habitat of watersheds shared by the U.S. and Canada. KSM received B.C. and Canadian federal approval last year, despite vocal opposition from Alaska fishermen, tribal governments, tourism businesses, municipalities and others, including the state's congressional delegation who called for a higher level of scrutiny of KSM by a panel of independent experts in Canada – a request that Canadian officials turned down without explanation.
There is also Red Chris, one of three proposed mines in the Stikine watershed. It opened one business day after a geotechnical report was released on the causes of the August 4 tailings disaster at Mount Polley mine in central B.C. The report suggested steps B.C. should take to avoid further mine catastrophes, including the recommendation that tailings not be stored underwater and behind large dams. Despite this, Red Chris mine has started to fill a tailings storage facility that utilizes just this technology.
Salmon Beyond Borders, a diverse group of Alaska fishermen, tribes, tourism operators and others, says the U.S. State Department must address B.C.'s mine development in the transboundary region and respond to Alaska concerns.
For more information or comments please contact:
Heather Hardcastle, Salmon Beyond Borders, firstname.lastname@example.org, (907) 209-8486
Dale Kelley, executive director, Alaska Trollers Association, email@example.com
Sarah O’Neal, salmon ecologist, firstname.lastname@example.org, (360) 918-4352