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
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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