B.C.’s approval of a new mine in a transboundary watershed has added fuel to simmering Alaskan anger about the province’s surge of mine development adjacent to the southeast Alaska border.
The province has granted an environmental assessment certificate to Pretivm Resources Inc. for the Brucejack gold and silver mine, about 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart and 40 kilometres upstream from the Alaskan border.
The underground mine, which has not yet received federal approval, will be close to the headwaters of the Unuk River, which flows from B.C. into Alaska. The Unuk is one of Southeast Alaska’s largest king (chinook) salmon rivers and drains into Misty Fjords National Monument, one of Alaska’s most popular tourist destinations.
Brucejack is adjacent to the large Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine, which received B.C and federal government approval last year, despite strong opposition from Alaskan politicians, fishermen and tribal governments.
“It is too much, too fast,” said Chris Zimmer, Alaska campaign director with Rivers Without Borders.
“It is the cumulative effect of so many mines in salmon-producing areas. There is so much coming at us so fast without any long-term controls and the process is just not designed to look at cumulative effects over a big region.”
The provincial government has given its blessing to another potential mine, this time the Brucejack gold project north of Stewart owned by Pretium Resources.
In releasing the decision to grant an environmental assessment certificate, environment minister Mary Polak and mines minister Bill Bennett noted the company will store a portion of its waste tailings underground and won't need a tailings storage facility and dam.
Other tailings will be deposited into Brucejack Lake.
But the ministers did add waters from the area do flow into the Unuk River.
National Geographic explorer-in-residence Mike Fay has travelled to places most of us can only dream of. So it’s no small compliment when he says the wilderness of northwestern B.C. is as good as anything on the planet. Having spent thousands of hours conducting aerial research and travelled thousands of kilometres on foot over the past 40 years, he states: “The land in northwestern B.C. is without a doubt probably the most stunning landscape that anyone could ever see. It is so immense and so incredibly intact and incredibly rich. It blows you away…it really blows your mind.”
Last summer, John Grace, one of the world's elite kayakers, traveled more than 3,000 miles from his North Carolina home into the wild northwest corner of British Columbia, to explore the Iskut River. It's the biggest tributary of the Stikine River, which flows all the way to the Alaska panhandle coast, and together they're the kind of big, untamed salmon-rich river system no longer found in the American West. On a sunny August day, deep in the backcountry, Grace and a few friends paddled toward the jaws of Iskut Canyon, hoping to reach a four-mile stretch of surging whitewater that no human had conquered before.
As they neared the canyon, the haunting silence of the rainforest closed in around them. Suddenly they found themselves in the midst of a vast construction camp. Workers were boring a tunnel into the mountain, part of a hydropower project to harness the great force of the river.
(To read the complete source article, click "High Country News")