Wild Border Watersheds

Empire Editorial: On the topic of transboundary mines, a response to Mr. Bill Bennett (Juneau Empire)

It’s not often the Juneau Empire offers a rebuttal to a submitted column. Waging a back-and-forth war of words isn’t fair for the other party. We buy ink by the barrel and have dedicated staff to get the word out online as well.

However, we must respond to the Feb. 24 My Turn penned by Bill Bennett, the Minister of Mines for British Columbia.

Let us start off by addressing the first portion of Mr. Bennett’s piece when he states it was “unfortunate your editorial has seized upon the Mount Polley mine tailings storage facility failure to undermine the long tradition of respectful relations and co-operation between British Columbia and Alaska on mining development and environmental protection.”

Perhaps Mr. Bennett has forgotten about the Tulsequah Chief Mine. Southeast Alaska has not forgotten.

The Tulsequah Chief Mine, located south of Juneau on the Taku River just across the Canadian border, has leached acid runoff into the Taku River since its closure in the 1950s. The Taku boasts notable salmon runs, the same runs which in turn give jobs to many commercial fishermen. There were efforts to revitalize the mine, but those failed for financial reasons and to this day acid continues to taint the Taku.

Alaskans — Native tribes, commercial fishermen, local governments and ordinary residents — feel it is not at all respectful to leave a mine in ruin, leaching acid runoff. Nor do we feel this is in any way an example of “environmental protection.” Years ago, Alaska’s leaders tried to have a dialogue on cleaning up the mine. Former Gov. Sarah Palin and others were largely ignored in their efforts, as this newspaper and others reported at the time.

(To read complete editorial, click "Juneau Empire")

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