How another border crisis is putting American seafood at risk (Salon)
The Keystone XL controversy may currently be consuming most of the U.S. government’s attention, but it’s not the only environmental crisis-in-the-making coming our way via Canada. A pro-development push north of the border is paving the way for large-scale mining projects located at key watersheds. Downstream in Alaska, commercial fishermen, conservation groups and others who fear for the mines’ potential to damage their homes and livelihoods can do nothing but watch.
Emblematic among these perceived threats is the KSM (Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell) mine, a British Columbia project in the transboundary Unuk River watershed. Alaska, the United State’s last major remaining source of wild-caught salmon, boasts five species of salmon; all can be found in the Unuk, which boasts one of the region’s largest runs of king, or chinook, salmon. On the U.S. side of the border, the Unuk flows into the Misty Fjords National Monument, a federal wilderness area.
KSM is somewhat uniquely imposing: if built, it would become one the world’s largest open-pit mines, capable of producing billions of pounds of copper and millions of pounds of silver, gold and molybdenum. It will be located less than 20 miles upstream from the U.S. border. In both size and controversy, KSM rivals Pebble Mine, the proposed open-pit copper mine currently the topic of fierce debate in Alaska. The difference here is that the ultimate decision whether or not to build the mine is largely out of Alaskans’ hands....
... KSM is terrifying based on its size alone, but add it to the number of other large, open-pit mines being fast-tracked toward approval, and the risks multiply. In 2011, Premiere Christy Clark, who trumpets mining as the province’s “comeback industry,” pledged to build eight new mines and expand nine others: right now, five projects in total are pending along the Taku , Stikine and Unuk watersheds, all of which are incredibly important, and delicate, salmon habitats. The same company behind the Mt. Polley disaster, Imperial Metals, has anther major project pending at a main tributary to the Stikine River watershed, “one of the largest salmon producers in the Tongass National Forest.” After Imperial Metals said it had no plans to slow down production in light of what happened at Mt. Polley, indigenous Canadians blockaded the mine in protest.
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