Hello transboundary river supporters,
This will be a big year for our transboundary rivers. The entire corridor of the Iskut, the Stikine River’s largest tributary and where Red Chris mine is already in full operation, is staked with mineral claims. Salmon stocks on many U.S.-B.C. rivers are crashing. British Columbia (B.C.) is making mine expansion, exploration, and investments along U.S.-B.C. rivers a central part of its economic recovery plan from COVID. Meanwhile, B.C. still does not consider the downstream risks associated with catastrophic and cumulative effects of mines when issuing mine permits, does not require mining companies to pay a full bond at permitting to demonstrate an ability to clean up after they are done, and does not require mining companies to obtain consent from all those affected — including downstream Tribes and communities in U.S.-B.C. transboundary watersheds. Moreover, B.C. highlights its commitments to “ESG” (Environment - Social - Governance) for its mining industry, though it remains unwilling to support the binding international governance framework for shared rivers that downstream U.S. communities have long requested, pursuant to the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
Salmon Beyond Borders has been working to make clear that this is a year in which we must see meaningful action to defend our transboundary rivers if they are to continue to birth millions of salmon in the years to come.
Wild Salmon in Trouble
Low numbers for wild salmon stocks are impacting life in Southeast Alaska with the cancellation of annual fishing traditions.
May 11, 2021 KRBD – Ketchikan king salmon derby canceled due to concern over wild fish stocks
Wild salmon are in heavy decline on transboundary rivers, impacting traditional harvest and commercial fishing.
April 8, KSTK — Low forecast could mean early Stikine sockeye subsistence closure, federal managers say
A Board of Fish meeting that would consider listing Taku and Stikine Chinook as “stocks of concern” (as recommended by ADF&G) in Alaska has been postponed to January 2022.
March 8, KSTK -- Board of Fish bumps back meeting schedule citing cost concerns, public outcry
Farther south, Washington State issued a dire report on its wild salmon that serves as a warning to those who would damage healthy salmon habitat elsewhere, including Alaska and British Columbia.
February 17, Seafood Source — Washington state salmon report offers warning to Alaska
Chinook salmon are in trouble across the Pacific.
February 24, The Astorian — New study highlights climate challenges for Chinook salmon
Meanwhile, B.C. scientists are hobbled by decades of salmon habitat monitoring cuts that have left them uncertain of fish populations.
February 18, The Tyee -- Decades of cuts to salmon monitoring leave B.C. scientists uncertain of fish populations
B.C. salmon are also losing genetic diversity, which threatens their ability to recover from the threats they face.
February 22, CBC News — New research suggests 70% decline in diversity of B.C. sockeye salmon stock in past century
Just days ago, B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup announced that B.C. failed to effectively manage its conservation lands program intended to protect habitat for fish and wildlife.
May 11, Vancouver Sun -- B.C. didn’t effectively manage conservation lands program: Auditor-General
Montana-Idaho-B.C. Transboundary Rivers
B.C.’s irresponsibly regulated mining continues to threaten salmon and salmonids in U.S.-B.C. transboundary watersheds. Regulators fined mining giant Teck Coal $60 million (Canadian), the largest fine under the Federal Fisheries Act in Canadian history, for its pollution in the transboundary Kootenai River, which flows into Montana and Idaho. But the fine is only for one year, the decision frees Teck from consequences for a number of other violations, and the fine is but a small fraction of the mining giant’s profits.
March 26, The Canadian Press -- Coal company Teck fined $60M for contaminating rivers in southeastern B.C.
Many doubt Teck’s ability to follow through on its promises to address water pollution.
April 10, The Missoulian — Monitors doubt mining company's water fixes
After years of work and conversations with scientists, Tribes and others, regulators in Montana in December approved strengthened standards for the contaminant selenium in Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River at the B.C.-Montana border, which are being polluted by Teck’s Elk Valley coal mines. Some worry it is “too little, too late.” Meanwhile, B.C. has not yet passed its own updated selenium standard for the Elk River that flows into Lake Koocanusa.
April 28, The Narwhal — As mining waste leaches into B.C. waters, experts worry new rules will be too little, too late
Washington-B.C. Transboundary Rivers
Concern about Imperial Metals’ plans to mine in the Skagit River headwaters continues.
May 2, GoSkagit.com — Cities, port, tribe: Risk of mining in Skagit River headwaters is too great
Plans to increase the capacity of the Copper Mountain mine massive waste dump along the transboundary Similkameen River are also igniting cross-border concern.
April 29, The Narwhal -- B.C.’s Copper Mountain mine proposes major tailings pond expansion, sparking cross-border concern
Washington lawmakers recently called on Premier John Horgan to address transboundary concerns.
April 10, Times Colonist — Washington lawmakers, conservationists push B.C. on mining regulations
Meanwhile, in the Fraser River watershed just north of Washington’s border, Imperial Metals — which has still not faced criminal charges, including under the Federal Fisheries Act, for its 2014 mine waste dump disaster — is planning to reopen Mount Polley mine this fall.
May 6, Williams Lake Tribune — Mount Polley mine expected to open by Fall 2021: Imperial Metals
Alaska-B.C. Transboundary RiversA wide variety of groups decried a “smoke and mirrors” report from the State of Alaska and the Province of B.C. ending a water quality far too soon.
March 4, The Narwhal — ‘Smoke and mirrors’: Indigenous groups, conservationists challenge report claiming B.C. mines have no impact on Alaska waters
March 2, Anchorage Daily News — Southeast tribes and fishermen angry over halt to Alaska-Canada water analysis
March 1, CoastAlaska — Tribes, fishermen decry Alaska and B.C. decision to end transboundary monitoring
Yet, despite all of this — or perhaps because of it — risky mining operations, exploration, and investments touted as meeting “ESG” responsible mining standards continue to move ahead in the Alaska/B.C. region, though downstream Tribes and stakeholders have not granted consent to upstream mining development for which they take on virtually all risks and receive no benefits.
March 11, Junior Mining Network -- Thesis Gold Signs Communications and Engagement Agreement with Tahltan Central Government
February 15, Global Mining Review -- Red Chris receives regulatory and funding approval
March 10, Mining.com — Newmont to buy GT Gold for $311 million
As previously reported, B.C.’s economic recovery plan pivots on mining and exploration, much of it near and within globally significant transboundary salmon watersheds.
Indigenous Leaders Take Action
The Tahltan Central Government, whose leadership is considered by many to be “B.C.’s most mining-friendly,” evicted Doubleview Gold from developing on sacred land in the Sheslay area of the Taku River watershed after Doubleview refused to respect Indigenous law.
April 17, The Canadian Press — B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area
The Tahltan Central Government also expressed concern about Newmont’s purchase of the Tatogga mine project in the Stikine River watershed. That kind of sway is rare, as this Reuters piece points out.
April 29, Reuters — Canadian First Nation, with rare sway over mining, puts Newmont on notice
The Tahltan Central Government, Skeena Resources, and conservation groups worked together to protect 3,500 hectares (about 8,650 acres) near Mount Edziza, in the Stikine River watershed.
April 8, Terrace Standard — New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park
Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas are leading the way in the defense of clean water and wild salmon. After four years of trying to work with the province to create an Indigenous Protected Area in the Skeena River watershed just south of the Alaska border, the Gitanyow First Nation are creating a new one on their own.
April 17, The Narwhal — Saving the salmon: why the Gitanyow are creating a new Indigenous Protected Area
Meanwhile, “Indigenous communities are leading a worldwide push to recognise legal ‘personhood’ rights of rivers, lakes and mountains.” One of the first: Muteshekau Shipu, also known as the Magpie River in Innu territory/Quebec.
April 3, Al Jazeera -- This river in Canada is now a ‘legal person’
Former Tahltan Central Government President and “Salmon Speaker” Annita McPhee broke barriers this spring when she was named the first Indigenous executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s B.C. chapter (CPAWS-BC).
March 20, The Narwhal -- ‘Unity and trust’: Annita McPhee on her role as the first Indigenous executive director of a CPAWS chapter
U.S. Briefings Focused on B.C. Mining
Earlier this spring, Salmon Beyond Borders and the Congressional Wild Salmon Caucus, including Rep. Don Young (R-AK) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), co-hosted an expert briefing focused on the need for B.C. to require much more robust financial assurance from mining companies operating in U.S.-B.C. shared watersheds to ensure salmon habitat is protected for generations to come.
April 9, Juneau Empire — Elected officials: Safe mining needed for salmon
At the end of April, Salmon Beyond Borders teamed up with Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC), Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, and United Fishermen of Alaska to update the Alaska House Fisheries Committee with what is going on in our transboundary rivers. Some of the biggest news shared at the event: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has forwarded SEITC’s human rights petition to the federal government of Canada, and Canada has less than four months to respond. The meeting also highlighted the continued broad support for international binding protections for U.S.-B.C. transboundary rivers.
May 3, CoastAlaska — Human rights panel to weigh transboundary mining concerns
Mineral prices and calls for green energy are rising, and B.C. is pushing a perception of its mining as responsible in an attempt to spur more development.
March 15, Vancouver Sun — Province launches 'roadmap' to improved social licence for mining
February 16, The Narwhal — Biden has hit the ground running on climate and environmental justice. How will Canada respond?
The global push for more responsible mining continues. But those like Fariq Fancy, BlackRock Inc.’s former chief investment officer for sustainable investing, are also publicly stating that industry and governments touting high ESG investments distracts from the fact that governments need to pass and enforce stronger regulations on extractive industries.
February 15, Reuters — Ford joins global initiative to promote responsible mining
March 25, Globe + Mail -- BlackRock hired me to make sustainable investing mainstream. Now I realize it’s a deadly distraction from the climate-change threat.
In closing, we leave you with this gorgeous essay in The New York Times, on the magic of wild Alaska salmon, from our friend Colin Arisman.
Here’s our previous edition of US-BC Transboundary Rivers in the News.
As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read this update. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.
Jill Weitz, Director
Salmon Beyond Borders
Despite last year’s many challenges and an unprecedented start to 2021, work to address the threats posed by British Columbia mines along international transboundary rivers hit several significant milestones in recent months. Among them:
Wild Salmon Along the Salmon Coast
The City and Borough of Juneau declared a salmon emergency “after one of the worst fishing seasons on record.”
October 26, KINY — CBJ declares salmon emergency
The forecast is not looking up. In 2021, Taku and Stikine River king salmon will likely join Unuk king salmon in being declared “Stocks of Concern.”
November 3, KSFK — More salmon stock listings recommended for SE AK
November 30, CoastAlaska — ADF&G: Taku and Stikine kings not projected to rebound in 2021
Salmon populations are crashing in British Columbia rivers. First Nations are — and have been — working to reverse that decline.
December 4, CBC — First Nations try to turn the tide on 'heartbreaking' decline in salmon population
In a positive step, the British Columbia government has given a strong mandate to its first parliamentary secretary (Finn Donnelly) for fisheries and aquaculture. Donnelly also has a mandate to support the new Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resources, Nathan Cullen, to develop a new provincial coastal strategy that better protects marine habitat while growing coastal economies.
December 7, The Abbotsford News — B.C. government makes big commitments to fish and habitat conservation
Montana took a big step forward when it approved stricter limits for the contaminant selenium, which causes deformities and deaths in fish, birds and other species, for the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa. It took longer than expected, however, because of delays caused by B.C.
September 25, Montana Public Radio — Montana proposes new rules to stem Canadian mine pollution
October 3, East Kootenay News Online Weekly — B.C. stalls on selenium pollution limit for Lake Koocanusa
In December, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Board of Review finally voted, five to one, to approve those new, stricter standards. The changes come after years of study and with deep support in public testimony.
December 12, Flathead Beacon — New Rule finalized to protect Lake Koocanusa from B.C. mining contaminants
B.C./Alaska: The Taku River
On the Taku River, after more than 60 years of contamination, the B.C. government has begun to “inch toward” cleanup of the polluting Tulsequah Chief mine. But since B.C. still has not held the historical mine owner, Teck Resources, accountable, as it is able to under the law, who will pay for cleanup remains THE open question.
November 10, The Narwhal — ‘Step in the right direction’: B.C.’s Tulsequah Chief mine inches toward cleanup as receivership ends
Juneau Empire, November 22 — Tulsequah Chief Mine moves closer to cleanup
Meanwhile, just across the Taku River, mine proponents this fall revealed that they will be renewing exploration aimed at reopening the New Polaris mine. The State of Alaska not only failed to notify Alaskans, it neither reviewed nor commented on the plans, highlighting the inadequacies of the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding between Alaska and B.C.
November 24, KCAW — Activity to resume at New Polaris mine upstream of Taku River
B.C./Alaska: The Stikine-Iskut watershed
Though 47 percent of the Iskut River, the largest tributary of the Stikine River, is already covered with B.C. mining claims, planned operations on that river continue to develop and expand.
Teck Resources and Copper Fox are revisiting plans for the Schaft Creek mine, in the Stikine River watershed.
November 25, Mining North News — Copper Fox revisits Schaft Creek study
B.C./Alaska: The Unuk River Watershed
The Stikine River isn’t the only watershed in which B.C. is allowing mining companies to expand already substantial footprints without the requirement of local consent or a study of cumulative impacts. Fifty-nine percent of the Unuk River watershed is covered with B.C. mining claims. Seabridge Gold, which plans what would be the largest mine in North America at its Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) project in the Unuk River watershed, grew this December.
December 4, Mining.com — Seabridge grows footprint in BC with Pretivm asset buy
Meanwhile, in a continuation of the State of Alaska’s lack of engagement with B.C., Alaska officials did not engage regarding KSM’s request for an extension of its existing Environmental Assessment — despite the fact an extension could allow the mine to use a 12-year-old, outdated analysis.
December 10, CoastAlaska News — Alaska officials silent on KSM’s request for more time to court mine investors
Overarching Transboundary Mine Waste Concerns
British Columbia’s recklessly regulated mines are a growing liability for B.C.’s politicians.
October 20, The Narwhal — The 4 environmental issues in northwest B.C. every voter should know about
October 22, The Narwhal — B.C. voters support mining reforms that protect the environment, make polluter pay: poll
Merrell-Ann Phare and Rob Sisson, Canadian and U.S. commissioners of the International Joint Commission, respectively, sat down with The Narwhal to discuss what their involvement on B.C.-U.S. transboundary rivers might look like.
November 23, The Narwhal — The Watershed Watchers: In conversation with the International Joint Commission
Just before the end of the year, the U.S. Congress approved more than $3 million for the U.S. Geological Survey and Tribes to continue monitoring water quality on transboundary U.S.-B.C. Rivers. An additional $500,000 for the U.S. Department of State will ensure they lead the U.S. response to B.C. mining along transboundary rivers.
January 12, Global News — Alaska demanding action on B.C. mining oversight
Responsible Mining is Key to a Clean Energy Future
Looking forward, the U.S. President-elect, Joe Biden, has said climate change will be a Day 1 priority for his administration. However, science makes clear that clean energy cannot be achieved via materials sourced by irresponsibly regulated mining in B.C.-U.S. transboundary watersheds.
September 1, Nature Communications — Renewable energy production will exacerbate mining threats to biodiversity
November 18, The Narwhal — The transition to renewable energy relies on mining. Can it be done responsibly?
At least one B.C. developer — though not, as of yet, any in transboundary watersheds — is leading the way in seeking to mine more responsibly.
October 6, The Narwhal — In a world that needs metals, how can we mine more responsibly?
The call to develop responsibly is also coming from some large companies that rely on mined metals for their products.
October 21, 2020, Greenbiz.com — Microsoft, Tiffany help carve out a new responsible mining standard
Meanwhile, this in-depth piece makes clear that despite big goals, Cascadia (B.C., Washington and Oregon) has failed to rein in its fossil fuel emissions over the last couple of decades due to an absence of political will.
January 11, The Tyee — Cascadia was poised to lead on climate. Can it still?
As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read this update. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.
Salmon Beyond Borders director
U.S./B.C. Transboundary Rivers in the News, May 6 - September 9, 2020
Hello transboundary river supporters,
2020 has offered challenges no matter where you look, but there have been some big milestones this summer in the work to address the risks posed by British Columbia mines along international transboundary rivers. A few highlights:
Overarching Transboundary Mine Waste Concerns
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year sent a letter to B.C. regulators demanding information about why Teck Resources is allowed to exceed contaminant limits in the transboundary Elk-Kootenai watershed — highlighting increased concern from the U.S. over B.C.’s reckless mining regulations and oversight.
May 11, Canadian Press — United States increasingly concerned over pollution from B.C. mines
Concern is also rising, generally, about the risk of mine waste (tailings) dam failures.
August 20, Science Magazine — Catastrophic failures raise concerns about dams containing muddy mine wastes
Several global and local efforts to address the risks tailings dams pose to sensitive areas like salmon-bearing rivers were finalized this year. The Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management is one of those. Many say it falls far short, however, of what is required to prevent pollution, property damage, and loss of life.
June 24, Reuters — Exclusive: Global tailings dam standards fall short of changes sought by civil society groups
August 6, CoastAlaska – Global mine tailings standards rest on voluntary compliance
More stringent mine waste standards are outlined in the proposed “Safety First” guidelines, supported and released this summer by an international coalition of more than 140 organizations, including Salmon Beyond Borders and Southeast Alaska Tribes.
June 29, Reuters — Environmental groups propose tailings dam safety standards
A letter from an international group of 22 scientists and policy experts, published in late April in Science and explored in our last media roundup, led to calls from sportsmen and former International Joint Commission commissioners for more protective mining policies in transboundary watersheds.
May 11, East Kootenay News Online Weekly — Opinion: Mining policies in transboundary watersheds must improve
May 26, East Kootenay News Online Weekly — Opinion: Fix Canadian mining now
Specific Projects in Shared Alaska / B.C. River Systems
When it comes to specific projects, this year has led to big developments with the Tulsequah Chief mine, which has been contaminating the Taku River watershed with acid mine drainage since it was abandoned by Teck Resources (formerly Teck-Cominco) more than 60 years ago. In coordination with the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, the province was to begin work to ready the site for cleanup this summer. Though B.C. will fund the first $1.6 million, the province is not yet sure who will pay for the full cleanup. The estimated total price tag is at least $100 million, including the $1 million per year needed to pay for water treatment in perpetuity.
August 13, The Narwhal — Cleaning up B.C.’s Tulsequah Chief Mine will cost $48.7 million
September, 7, Juneau Empire — Opinion: Mine cleanup plan is encouraging, but there’s still work to be done
The Tulsequah Chief mine also highlights that the financial assurances B.C. requires of its mines are inadequate to cover reclamation of a mine site, with a $1.2 billion shortfall across the province. Canadian taxpayers will most likely foot most of the $100 million cleanup bill, unless the B.C. Chief Inspector of Mines Herman Henning holds Teck Resources, the historical mine owner, liable — which is entirely within the inspector’s discretion and authority to do.
August 21, The Province — B.C. holds only $1 million security for up to $100 million cleanup of Tulsequah Chief Mine
Part of the reason it’s unclear who will clean up the Tulsequah Chief mine: the mine’s current owner, Chieftain Metals, is being sued by a creditor for $20 million.
August 7, CoastAlaska News — Tulsequah Chief creditors delay cleanup of contaminated mine site
In the Unuk River watershed, Seabridge Gold, proponent of the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine project — which would be one of the largest mines on the planet if built as proposed — has requested a two-year extension of its environmental assessment (EA) certificate, reviving calls for a new impact assessment that incorporates updated mining practices and new information, specifically since Imperial Metals’ 2014 Mount Polley mine tailings disaster.
August 19, The Narwhal — Seabridge Gold asks B.C. for more time to begin KSM mine construction, citing COVID-19
August 27, CoastAlaska — Large open-pit mine developer near AK border asks Canadian regulators for more time
The Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) is one of the groups requesting a new EA for KSM. “KSM would be huge and so close to us. Our people need a say in the process,” said Sylvia Banie, Vice President of the Organized Village of Saxman and Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission’s Secretary.
August 21, Indian Country Today, Press Release — Like Alaska’s Pebble Mine, this project is located in the wrong place
Threats to Washington / B.C. Transboundary Rivers
Pressure is mounting in Washington state to defend the transboundary Skagit River from mining in the “donut hole,” the unprotected, sensitive area between two parks in B.C. near the B.C. / Washington border. Indigenous leaders also recently highlighted how B.C. mining projects threaten additional salmon rivers shared by Washington and B.C.
July 19, The Province — Opinion: Mike Harcourt and Ken Farquharson: It's time to finish saving the Skagit
August 30, The Seattle Times — Opinion: Protect Washington’s rivers from British Columbia mining waste. Written by Scott Schuyler of Sedro-Woolley, who is a lifelong fisherman, tribal member and the natural resources director of the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, and Rob Edward of Keremeos, B.C, who is a traditional knowledge keeper and former chief of the Lower Similkameen Indian Band.
The Skagit was the focus of this comprehensive piece on the dangers recklessly regulated B.C. mines pose to rivers that flow into the U.S.
May 26, Sierra — A river runs through international borders
B.C.’s Mount Polley Mine and the Fraser River
This August 4 marked the sixth anniversary of the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster, for which Imperial Metals has still not been held liable by B.C. Bev Sellars, grandmother and former chief of the Xat’sull Nation, wrote, “The disaster was an opportunity for British Columbia and Canada to change their Gold Rush-era mining laws. But they didn’t. Instead, they continue to allow industry to use the Fraser River watershed as a garbage dump.”
August 13, CBC — Contamination from Mount Polley spill continues to affect waterways, study finds
August 11, Juneau Empire — Opinion: We are poisoning our future. There’s a better way.
While charges have not been levied against Imperial Metals, engineers tasked with monitoring the failed tailings dam face discipline and fines.
June 4, Prince George Matters — Engineers face discipline over northern B.C. mine disaster
The Mount Polley failure and failures of global tailings dams that have caused loss of life, property, and health worldwide have resulted in calls to ban mine waste dumps upstream of communities from many organizations, including B.C.’s First Nations Energy and Mining Council and Salmon Beyond Borders.
August 10, Business Intelligence for B.C. — Lessons learned from the Mount Polley disaster
Wild Salmon and Climate Change Along the Salmon Coast
Meanwhile, Fraser River sockeye salmon runs have collapsed. This year was expected to be “the worst year since tracking began in 1893.”
August 11, CBC — 'Quite dire': Fraser River sockeye salmon run expected to be worst ever recorded
Abysmal salmon returns led to closures of Chinook fishing on the Taku and Stikine Rivers.
June 23, Terrace Standard — Sport fishing season for chinook salmon closed on B.C.’s Stikine and Taku Rivers
Climate change and an abundance of hatchery fish competing for food are leading Alaska’s salmon, especially Chinook, to return to their natal streams younger and smaller.
August 25, Seattle Times -- Alaska salmon returning smaller amid climate change, competition with hatchery fish, study finds
Climate change is also impacting Alaska’s salmon-rich freshwater systems.
July 28, The Cordova Times — What climate change means for Alaska’s rivers — and king salmon
The B.C. / Montana / Idaho Border
Along the B.C. / Montana / Idaho border, pollution from Teck Resources’ coal mines have caused selenium levels to skyrocket. Selenium is lethal in large amounts and recently wiped out cutthroat trout in a transboundary tributary of the Elk River that flows past Teck’s mines. Because of its transboundary implications and impacts to fish and First Nations, the Canadian federal government announced it will conduct a federal impact assessment of the Castle project, Teck’s planned expansion of its network of coal mines. B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman pointed out that “trans-border issues” are “matters of federal jurisdiction.” First Nations, Tribes, organizations including Salmon Beyond Borders, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had called for this action and applaud Minister Wilkinson’s decision.
August 19, The Canadian Press — Feds to join assessment of Teck coal mine expansion in B.C.
August 19, The Narwhal — Ottawa to review Teck’s Castle Mountain coal mine in B.C. amid concerns over fish habitat
Please stay tuned for, after five years of research and negotiation, imminent news of the adoption of a new, stricter water quality standard for selenium by the State of Montana and the Province of B.C. in the transboundary Elk-Kootenai River.
Digital Engagement During COVID-19
This May, Salmon Beyond Borders hosted a webinar discussion called “Western Transboundary Watersheds and the Boundary Waters Treaty” with Indigenous leaders on both sides of the border, scientific and policy experts, and members of the International Joint Commission, which works to find international solutions under the U.S./Canada Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
May 17, The Cordova Times — Indigenous leaders connecting on transboundary issues
That webinar is available here.
In July, leading up to the sixth anniversary of the Mount Polley tailings dam disaster, Salmon Beyond Borders co-hosted a webinar with Canadian partners called “No More Mount Polleys,” which featured Indigenous leaders and technical experts. That webinar is available here.
In one of the most incredible projects with which Salmon Beyond Borders has had the honor to be involved, Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission and Ping Chong + Company recently presented When the Salmon Spoke: Indigenous Stories of the Stikine River, in collaboration with Salmon Beyond Borders and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust. The online premiere of this digital production was directly followed by a virtual “Salmon Wauwau” — an online roundtable discussion with project collaborators and Tlingit, Tahltan, and Haida storytellers. If you haven’t yet, we invite you to listen to these important Indigneous stories from both sides of the transboundary Stikine River here.
A Well-deserved Retirement
Finally, Tis Peterman, who has worked tirelessly to defend the Stikine and other transboundary Alaska / B.C. rivers from recklessly regulated B.C. mines, retired as the executive director of the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission (SEITC) this summer. Along with many, many others, we extend our heartfelt thanks to Tis for her years of work, and welcome Fred Otilius Olsen, Jr., the new ED of SEITC!
June 25, Salmon Beyond Borders blog — People of the Salmon Coast: Tis Peterman
May 26, KINY — Tis Peterman to retire as director of SEITC
As always, thanks so much for taking the time to read this update. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments.
Salmon Beyond Borders director
Dear transboundary river supporters,
First and foremost, we send our best wishes for your health and safety in these frightening times.
Even and especially in these times, however, our shared work to defend and sustain the waters, lands and salmon that give us life continues. Soon the salmon will return in force, and we continue to do all we can to ensure they return to clean, healthy transboundary rivers. We want to keep you in the loop, so here are some highlights from the first quarter of 2020.
In a new study, B.C.’s Chief Inspector of Mines found that B.C. taxpayers are on the hook for $1.2 billion in mine cleanup costs.
March 6, The Narwhal -- B.C. taxpayers on the hook for 1.2 billion in mine cleanup costs: chief inspector report
One of those liabilities is the abandoned Tulsequah Chief Mine, which has been contaminating the Taku River watershed for more than 60 years. In this opinion piece, former Taku River guide Patricia Thomson called for cleanup.
February 24, Vancouver Sun — Patricia Thomson: B.C. needs to follow through on its commitment to cleaning up the Tulsequah Chief
Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan called for the EPA to release its analysis of transboundary mines and how they endanger the U.S. He also highlighted the fact that the Tulsequah Chief “continues to spew toxic waste into the river,” and that “the Canadians won’t clean it up.”
March 11, YouTube — Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) at a Senate Environment & Public Works hearing
The threat to U.S. rivers from B.C. is shared by Washington, Idaho, and Montana. This year, more and more people, organizations, lawmakers and Tribes have begun calling for protections for the Skagit River, which flows from B.C. into Washington, and which is threatened by Imperial Metals’ plan to mine in the “donut hole” between protected areas.
February 21, Crosscut — Tribes worry a Canadian mine could poison Washington salmon
February 25, Seattle Times — Opinion: Washington’s rivers, salmon and orcas need protection from Canadian mines
Cutthroat trout have been virtually wiped out in a tributary of the transboundary Elk-Kootenai River that runs through Teck Resources coal mines along the Canada/Montana border. That’s exactly what scientists predicted would happen if Teck was allowed to keep contaminating the river, but B.C. regulators allowed the pollution to continue.
March 8, National Post — Coal miner Teck says it’s baffled by fish collapse downstream of British Columbia mines
This insightful piece from two scientists delves into the threats mine waste dumps pose to the shared transboundary rivers of the Salmon Coast. Over the past 100 years, more than 300 mine waste dumps worldwide have failed — but even when they don’t fail, they harm people, wildlife, fish and rivers.
February 24, The Conversation — Mine waste dams threaten the environment even when they don’t fail
In fact, spurred by the 2019 failure of the Brumadinho mine waste dump in Brazil, which killed hundreds of people, the world’s first global database of mine waste dumps went live in January.
January 24, Mining.com — Global database of tailings dams goes live
In spite of those efforts, mine waste dump reviews are still weak, and toxic mine waste storage practices have not changed in the last 100 years, according to a study from the Responsible Mining Foundation.
April 7, Mining.com — Miners’ response to Brazil’s dam disaster still weak — report
Here on the border between Canada and the United States, there’s a clear solution for preventing and resolving disputes over shared waters: the International Joint Commission--as a new book makes clear about this body that was created by the U.S.-Canada Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909.
April 3, Spartan Newsroom — The secret savior of U.S. and Canada’s shared waters isn’t one person
Meanwhile, this Mining.com article used the Galore Creek mining project, planned for the Stikine River watershed, as a case study of poor decision-making, oversights, and underestimated risk.
April 10, Mining.com — Exploding costs: An analysis of Galore Creek
The struggle of the Wet’suwet’en land protectors is a stark portrayal of the colonialist, force-heavy policies supporting extractive industries that fail to honor Indigenous rights and title, in spite of B.C.’s ostensible commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On April 30, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and B.C. and Canadian governments jointly announced their new MOU to implement Wet’suwet’en rights and title, though the MOU reportedly doesn’t specifically address the pipeline issue.
February 13, Washington Post — Opinion: A pipeline offers a stark reminder of Canada’s ongoing colonialism
February 7, The Conversation — Wet’suwet’en: Why are Indigenous rights being defined by an energy corporation?
February 17, Policy Options — The breathtaking hypocrisy of the howls for rule of law
May 4, The Canadian Press - Wet’suwet’en agree to deal with government over rights and title
The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing bad practices and risks within transboundary mines. Miners say Teck Coal punishes miners who speak out about risks and shortcomings, including risks to their own health.
March 20, The Narwhal — B.C. mine workers fear Teck not taking adequate precautions against coronavirus
According to medical professionals, work camps and other resource extraction operations in B.C. pose huge risks to rural communities and the hundreds of people they confine in small spaces during the COVID-19 crisis. The Tahltan Nation closed their borders to protect the health of community members; however, miners continue to travel in and out of the work camps at Red Chris and Brucejack mines in Tahltan Territory.
March 31, The Narwhal -- Former chief medical officer urges B.C. to shut industrial work camps during coronavirus pandemic
April 23, Terrace Standard - Tahltan ask visitors to stay away from their territory during COVID-19
Finally, on May 1, 22 scientists and policy experts from multiple U.S. states and both sides of the international U.S./Canada border published a letter in the prestigious, peer-reviewed journal “Science.” The letter calls on the U.S. and Canadian federal governments to invoke the Boundary Waters Treaty and address the fact that B.C. mine assessments are not adequately based on defensible science nor adequately protect U.S.-B.C. transboundary waters from mining pollution.
May 1, KINY — International letter urges Canada, U.S. to jointly address British Columbia transboundary mining pollution
April 28, University of Montana — UM Researchers urge governments to address transboundary mining pollution
May 4, The Western News — Resisting status as ‘Canada’s settling pond’
As always, thank you for reading and please let me know if you have any questions regarding this issue! We are sending you all our best in these trying times.
Jill Weitz, Salmon Beyond Borders director
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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