B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett is spending this week in Alaska, his second trip this year to work out a formal agreement on mine regulation between the state and the province.
Bennett has meetings lined up with Alaska conservation groups, state legislators, commercial fishing representatives and Alaska Governor Bill Walker. With major mine projects proposed on both sides of the border and continued public concern in the wake of last year's Mount Polley tailings dam collapse near Quesnel, Bennett is hoping to have an agreement ready for Walker and Premier Christy Clark to sign later this year.
Several B.C. mine projects have opened or received permits to proceed this year in northwest B.C., where salmon-bearing river systems extend across the Alaska panhandle to the Pacific Ocean.
A new report from two environmental groups claims a proposed gold and copper mine northeast of Ketchikan is too risky to build.
It says British Columbia’s Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project threatens the safety of Alaska and B.C. salmon.
“The most significant risk associated with what KSM is proposing is the unprecedented volume of water that the mine is planning to manage and treat,” says Bonnie Gestring, of the Montana office of Earthworks, a conservation organization focused on mines.
She says it will handle more than 20 billion gallons a year, nearly eight times the volume of the next-largest open pit mine in North America.
Things are not looking good for multi-billion mine projects like the KSM in B.C., according to a new mining global outlook from PwC.
Smaller, leaner projects, may stand more of a chance of getting financed in a new era of prolonged low commodity prices and activist shareholders, according to PwC’s 2015 mining outlook, The Gloves Are Off.
As the title suggests, mining companies will have to fight to survive and they are going to have to get used to operating or building new mines at current commodity prices, rather than pin their hopes on a major rally.
Earlier this month, Heather Hardcastle, a commercial fisherwoman from Juneau, Alaska met in Williams Lake, B.C. with members of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation. They shared a meal of wild Alaskan salmon that Hardcastle brought as a symbolic gesture: This fish was a reminder of all there was to lose.
After lunch, Hardcastle and her team of Alaska visitors boarded a helicopter and flew 25 minutes away to the site of the Mount Polley accident, the scene of a massive breach last August of its mine waste dam near the town of Likely, B.C.
The breach released millions of cubic metres of contaminated water into Quesnel Lake, which feeds into the Fraser River.
Nine months later, Jacinda Mack, a Xatsull woman from the Soda Creek reserve and one of many residents living near the path of the spill, invited the Alaskans to Williams Lake to see firsthand the main effect of that accident.
On the Fraser River, contamination from the mine breach threatened the run of Sockeye salmon that spawns in Quesnel Lake.
"We saw where [Mack] was raised, and where they used to fish on the Fraser where people fished for thousands of years, and they're not fishing there anymore. It's heartbreaking," Hardcastle said. "It's a stunning and gorgeous area but it was just so sad. It feels selfish to be thinking about us and our water, but it lit a fire under me. We have to do something."
(To read complete source article, click "The Tyee")
B.C.’s push to develop mines in its shared watersheds with Alaska is under increasing scrutiny from the American side of the border.
Concerns over multiple proposed metal mines near the southeast Alaska border has drawn Alaska’s Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott — and a coterie of commercial fishing, conservation and First Nation groups — to British Columbia this week.
In a visit that coincides with mining week in B.C., Mallott will meet with B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, Environment Minister Mary Polak, industry representatives and First Nation leaders.
The Alaskan fishing, conservation and aboriginal representatives are in B.C. to build alliances in their push for more scrutiny of the potential effects on Alaska waters that support a multi-billion-dollar fishery.
They believe that B.C.’s review process is not adequate and want Alaska to have a seat at a table, potentially through an international joint commission, to examine potential cumulative effects on water and salmon. The groups are also concerned about compensation if there is a disaster.
Dozens of Canadian and American environmental groups, First Nations and businesses, as well as scientists and individuals, have called on the B.C. government to end the use of storing mine waste under water and behind earth-and-rock dams.
But Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said that is not going to happen in British Columbia. “I don’t think that’s in the cards for B.C. — or any other province in Canada — to adopt a policy where all you can use to manage tailings is dry-stack tailings,” Bennett said in an interview.
The demand from the U.S. and Canadian groups — sent in a letter Tuesday to Bennett and B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak — came as a result of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley tailings dam failure last summer.
Monty Bassett, Documentary Filmmaker, 250-877-0961 or 250-847-5605
Chris Zimmer, Rivers Without Borders, 907-586-2166 or 907-988-8173, Zimmer@riverswithoutborders.org
Wade Davis, BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk, Professor of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Diverse group of Alaska Tribes, members of First Nations, businesses, organizations, scientists and individuals calls for end to wet mine tailings storage in B.C.
Today a large and diverse group of Canadians and Americans called on the British Columbia (B.C.) government to halt the permitting of wet tailings facilities for new and proposed mines in B.C. based on the Independent Expert Panel recommendations on the Mount Polley mine tailings disaster. Eighty-seven Alaska Native tribes, members of B.C. First Nations, businesses, prominent individuals, scientists, and conservation groups signed a letter to the B.C. government calling for a shift to newer and safer dry tailings storage technology.
“Wet tailings impoundments are an unacceptable financial and environmental liability now and for future generations,” said letter organizer Monty Bassett. “A failure by the B.C. government to stop further construction of wet tailings storage facilities would be a blatant disregard for safety and its own commitments to adopt Best Available Technologies and Practices. Dry stack is a proven tailings technology. Mining industry complaints about costs fly in the face of the Mount Polley report recommendation that costs should not trump safety.”
These concerns are based on recommendations by the Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel, which released a report on the Mount Polley tailings failure in January 2015. The report found that unless significant changes are made in the way B.C. tailings dams are designed and maintained, more failures can be expected. The report’s principal recommendation calls for an end to outdated “hundred year old” wet tailings storage and conversion to “dry stack” tailings systems. According to page 120 of the report, “Improving technology to ensure against failures requires eliminating water both on and in the tailings: water on the surface, and water contained in the interparticle voids. Only this can provide the kind of failsafe redundancy that prevents releases no matter what.”
“We cannot afford another Mount Polley, especially at mines like Red Chris or the proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM), which are much bigger and will have more toxic acidic tailings,” said Chris Zimmer of Rivers Without Borders. “Unless there are major changes to B.C. tailings storage, we will soon see more dangerous dams built across B.C. and in the headwaters of major transboundary salmon rivers such as the Stikine, Taku and Unuk. These tailings dumps will be toxic time bombs poised upstream of vital salmon habitat.”
Despite the Mount Polley report’s recommendations, just days after the Panel released its report, B.C.’s Ministry of Energy and Mines issued an “interim operating” permit for a wet-tailings facility at the Red Chris mine in northwestern B.C., in the headwaters of the transboundary, salmon-rich Stikine River. The interim permit expires May 4, 2015. The Red Chris facility, also owned by Imperial Metals, is similar to the one that failed at Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine in August, releasing almost 25 million cubic meters (6.6 billion gallons) of mine waste water and tailings into the Fraser River watershed.
“It is reckless for B.C. to permit the kind of outdated watered tailings facility at Red Chris that failed at Mount Polley and that the expert panel specifically recommends against,” said Zimmer. “The panel called Mount Polley a ‘loaded gun’ and B.C. is loading the chamber at Red Chris.”
According to an independent expert report commissioned by Imperial Metals, “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure.” This is also true of other mines such as KSM. The proposed KSM tailings facility is roughly six times that of Mount Polley’s.
“We know that a dam failure at mines like Red Chris or KSM could have far worse consequences than Mount Polley, yet the B.C. government and the mining industry are avoiding the one thing that could reduce the risk of such a failure,” said Zimmer. “The costs of such failures to downstream communities could dwarf the costs of implementing changes now.”
The lessons of Mount Polley show that tailings failures are very difficult and expensive to clean up, there are no insurance policies for tailings dams, mine company bonding doesn’t pay for accidents or disasters, and there are no clear mechanisms to compensate injured parties. Industry often can’t pay, which means either B.C. taxpayers end up paying for substantial environmental liabilities, or cleanup and compensation doesn’t happen.
“What we are saying is to do Red Chris right,” said author Wade Davis, who owns a lodge at the base of Mount Todagin where Red Chris is situated. “In the wake of Mount Polley, how can we trust wet tailings storage? Can we not expect the safest mine technology possible from Imperial Metals?”
The letter was sent to Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines; Mary Polak, Minister of Environment; Al Hoffman, Chief Inspector of Mines; Diane Howe, Deputy Chief Inspector of Mines; Norm MacDonald, MLA, Opposition Critic for Energy and Mines; and Doug Donaldson, MLA, Stikine.
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.
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.
An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines—at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska—has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks posed to their multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries. These concerns were heightened with the August 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.
Last summer, as part of production for Xboundary, we completed a 100-mile transect of the Unuk River watershed. What follows is an excerpt and action alert from an interview we did with Trout Unlimited Alaska after the trip, who, along with Patagonia, sponsored our project.
(To read complete source article, click "The Cleanest Line")
A provincial government report that found the tailings pond dam at Mount Polley collapsed because it was built on a weak foundation has heightened concerns in Alaska about British Columbia’s mine safety standards.
Commercial fishermen, native organizations and the mayors of two Alaska communities say they are worried the Red Chris mine, now being built in northern British Columbia by the same company that owns Mount Polley, poses a similar risk.
(To read complete source article, click "The Globe and Mail")
With untouched wild rivers and strict fishing regulations, Alaska has some of the healthiest salmon fisheries in the world. But as Living on Earth’s Emmett FitzGerald reports, new metal mines upstream in British Columbia mean the fishing community in Southeast Alaska is deeply worried about what could flow downstream.
(To read and listen to full report, click "Living on Earth")
Top Canadian environmental officials have rejected calls from Southeast Alaska for a new, more thorough environmental review of a mine that may threaten jointly targeted salmon stocks.
The massive Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine being developed by Seabridge Gold already won approval from the province of British Columbia, but Alaskans, with fishing, Native and environmental groups leading the way, called for a more stringent "panel review" at the Canadian federal level.
But Friday, Canada's environment minister and other officials announced they'd concluded that no further review was necessary.
The KSM mine "is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects when the mitigation measures described in the Comprehensive Study Report are taken into account," the environmental assessment decision announced Friday said.
Fears that multiple mines in British Columbia, with KSM the nearest, would threaten Alaska fisheries and the environment were highlighted when Imperial Metals' Mount Polley mine tailings dam breached in August, spilling millions of gallons of waste rock and water into tributaries of the salmon-rich Fraser River in southern B.C.
The National Congress of American Indians, the Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood have added their voices to those calling for protections of salmon and eulachon rivers that flow from British Columbia and into Alaska.
Southeast Alaskan fishermen, tourism operators and environmental groups, as well as some municipalities and Native organizations like the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, have been vocal in their concern about British Columbia’s mining development plans, forming the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Working Group, traveling to D.C. to meet with Alaska’s Congressional delegation and environmental regulators, and holding many meetings sharing their concerns.
“The health of our rivers and streams is paramount for Alaska Natives and American Indians, especially those who rely on our traditional and customary ways of life. Since rivers do not recognize the arbitrary boundaries drawn on maps, it is the responsibility of the United States and Canada to work together on maintaining a healthy ecosystem and clean water for the protection of all of our subsistence resources,” said Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of NCAI, in a press release.
Alaska groups concerned about the impact of British Columbia mines on Southeast fisheries continue to push for federal intervention in Canada’s project review process.
Leaders from Rivers Without Borders, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Salmon Beyond Borders and the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Working Group urged attendees of the Dec. 2 Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Providers Conference in Anchorage to sign a petition requesting Secretary of State John Kerry to initiate the International Joint Commission process — the only way the Alaskans can have their voices heard they said.
The commission, or IJC, consists of five commissioners, two from Canada and three from the U.S., who review transboundary watershed issues. The IJC can only get involved when called upon by both governments. In the U.S., the State Department makes that call.
Rivers Without Borders Alaska Campaign Director Chris Zimmer said there are about a dozen proposed mines in British Columbia that his organization is concerned about. However, the Kerr Sulphurets Mitchell, or KSM, gold proposal on the British Columbia side of the Unuk River drainage seems to be top priority for most individuals worried about the issue.
(To read complete source article, click "Alaska Journal of Commerce")
British Columbia's ambition of opening new mines in the province's north has raised fears in neighbouring Alaska where environmental and aboriginal groups say the industry's unchecked development threatens their salmon and tourism industries.
Tribal leaders and salmon-protection advocates gathered at a Bureau of Indian Affairs conference in Anchorage Tuesday, and high on the agenda was the impact of B.C. mineral developments on the multibillion-dollar Alaskan industries.
Conference delegates called on the U.S. State Department to use the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty to activate the International Joint Commission, hold boundary dispute hearings and discuss the important salmon waterways, the communities they support and the risks they face from potential mine contamination.
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.
Transboundary mine opponents are trying a new tactic in their opposition to a project northeast of Ketchikan. They’re telling investors, and anyone else who will listen, that the KSM mine is a bad place to put their money.
Bill Bennett, British Columbia’s minister of energy and mines, traveled to Anchorage last week to tell Alaskans what they already know: Fish are important.
Bennett spoke at the Alaska Miners Association conference in part to reassure Alaskans that British Columbia takes mine safety seriously.
Bennett’s message isn’t important — it’s what we expect to hear from someone who works in a government interested in industrial development. What’s more important to Alaskans is the messenger.
When was the last time a British Columbian minister traveled to Alaska in such a prominent way?
The enormous Mount Polley Mine tailings dam failed Aug. 4, spilling millions of gallons of potentially toxic material into the Fraser River watershed. Even before that dam’s collapse, Alaskans had been alarmed about the progress of a series of mammoth mines just over the border from Alaska. The Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Mine, for example, is planned for the headwaters of the Unuk River, which flows across the border and empties into the Pacific Ocean between Wrangell and Ketchikan. Each summer, the Unuk and other transboundary rivers host countless salmon and their eggs. The Mount Polley Mine disaster was a perfect example of Alaskans’ fears come to life.
A report released today identifies significant risks associated with the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine proposed by Seabridge Gold in northwest British Columbia near the border with Alaska and upstream of Misty Fjords National Monument. It details a growing list of operational, legal, economic and political challenges facing the controversial project, which some analysts have compared to the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska.
Roaring at seven knots up the U.S. side of the Stikine River, a grizzly bear of a man named Mark Galla steers our jet boat through a gauntlet of protruding logs, attempting to point out the exact point at which Alaska becomes British Columbia. Against the vastness of the surrounding wilderness, the border is invisible, almost arbitrary. Until recently, most Alaskans couldn't see it either.
That all changed in August when YouTube video highlights of the Mount Polley mine disaster circulated through panhandle towns like Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell. Media from across the state drew comparisons between Mount Polley and the tailings dams that could one day accompany the half-dozen open pit mines proposed in the wild river watersheds that Alaska and B.C. share -- the Unuk, Taku and, more than anywhere else, the Stikine.
(To read complete source article, click "The Tyee")
Throughout history, arguments over land and water usages have run the gamut from tussles over fences with next-door neighbors to shootouts over interstate grazing rights in the old west. But when land and water rights pit one country against another, that’s when things really get tricky.
That is the situation in Southeast Alaska, where residents find themselves downstream from several massive open pit gold and copper mines being developed in bordering British Columbia. The mines are located in the headwaters of some of Southeast’s largest and most productive wild salmon rivers: the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk.
Canada operates under different permitting and environmental rules than the U.S. and currently, no safeguards are in place to protect Alaska waters and fisheries from chemical and heavy-metal contaminants leaching from the B.C. mines. Recall the Aug. 4 tailings dam breach at the Mt. Polley mine, and it’s easy to understand why Southeast residents are seeing red.
Kerr Sulphurets Mitchell, a British Columbia mine in the transboundary Unuk River watershed that concerns many Southeast Alaska fishermen, Native organizations, tourism and environmental groups, has received early construction permits from the British Columbian government.
“I think people are feeling not just a sense of urgency, and being threatened, but anger, too,” said Heather Hardcastle, commercial fishing outreach coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “To hear that they have these preliminary permits, road construction permits — it seems like such a slap in the face, because the project doesn’t yet have federal approval from the government in Canada.”
The collapse of a tailings dam on Aug. 4, at a big British Columbia mine, not only contaminated key salmon habitat but breached the credibility of B.C.’s government.
The province’s lack of transparency, and lackadaisical attitude toward warning signs at the Mount Polley Mine, should be a wakeup call on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.
Why is this of concern to Washington or Alaska? What does a huge release of water and metal-laden tailings into Quesnel Lake have to do with the United States?
Plenty! Just look closely at a map of Southeast Alaska.
Big mines are being planned or on the verge of opening in the Stikine-Iskut, Unuk and Taku River systems, vitally important Alaska salmon streams all of which have their headwaters in British Columbia.
The state of Alaska has taken the rare step of asking the Canadian government for greater involvement in the approval and regulation of a controversial mine in northwestern British Columbia amid growing concern that the project could threaten American rivers and fish.
Alaska's Department of Natural Resources outlined its request in a letter this week to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which has been reviewing the proposed KSM gold and copper mine, owned by Seabridge Gold Inc. (TSX:SEA). The project has already been approved by B.C.
"The state of Alaska has important obligations to our citizens relating to the protection of fish, wildlife, waters and lands that we hold in trust," says the state's letter, signed by three senior bureaucrats.
They request in the letter that the state be involved in the authorization and permitting process for the KSM mine, the development of enforcement provisions in those permits, and the development of monitoring programs for water quality and dam safety.
Following a massive mine waste spill in Canada, Alaska state and Canadian federal officials are being asked to do more to protect parts of Alaska downstream of several Canadian mines.
"That water belongs to us, too," said Rob Sanderson, a Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indians of Alaska vice-president and co-chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Workshop.
He's most concerned about the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine in Canada east of Ketchikan, which he said is seven times the size of the Mount Polley Mine in interior British Columbia. The breach of the latter mine's tailings dam contaminated the watershed of Canada's important Fraser River.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has become a cause célèbre for environmentalists nationwide.
Southeast Alaska is far less remote and barren — and yet, for some reason its protection is not yet a national issue.
It needs to be, and now.
Grand and gorgeous, this portion of The Last Frontier — home to key salmon and other habitats — is under threat of potential devastation today.
As Rivers Without Borders puts it, “at the headwaters of a tributary of the Unuk River, just upstream from Misty Fiords National Monument in Alaska,” a proposed massive open-pit and underground mine known as KSM — Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell — threatens to despoil the frontier and endanger pristine habitats that we humans have come to not only awe, but also depend upon for life.
If that precarious balance weren’t already enough in focus, the startling breach of the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia on Aug. 4 should have jolted us all awake.
Salmon runs and spawning streams shared by the U.S. and Canada could be threatened by big Canadian mining developments and the lax regulatory climate that led to British Columbia’s Mount Polley environmental disaster, two U.S. senators warned Monday.
“We have to show these people that salmon know no boundaries,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said while touring facilities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said he supports mines “but the right kind of mines.” Begich is worried at mine projects in the Canadian headwaters of the Stikine-Iskut, Unuk and Taku Rivers, all important salmon streams which flow into Southeast Alaska.
Begich called the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., last week and wrote a strongly worded letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Changes made two years ago to a century-old federal law mean that a giant new gold mine just approved by the province for northwestern British Columbia will get reduced federal oversight -- and risk creating an international flashpoint.
The B.C. government yesterday gave Seabridge Gold Inc.'s proposed Kerr-Sulpherets-Mitchell gold mine, in the headwaters of the Unuk River, a certificate of approval, concluding that the $5.3-billion open-pit project is unlikely to have any adverse environmental impacts.
That confidence is questionable. The international gold-mining industry has a long and troubling record of serious environmental damage arising from its operations, including rivers and estuaries heavily contaminated by cyanide, arsenic and other chemicals either used in processing ore or released from the ground when it is mined.
The potential implications for the Unuk River, which begins in Canada but runs for the last 40 kilometres of its course through the Alaska panhandle, have alarmed that state's residents.
(To read complete source article, click "The Tyee")
A Canadian junior miner planning to build a massive open pit gold, copper, silver and molybdenum mine in northern British Columbia will likely have to deal with the similar amount and type of hurdles faced by the controversy-ridden Pebble Mine.
The British Columbia government has granted environmental approval for a proposed $5.3-billion mine in the provinces north, which would tap into one of the largest gold and copper deposits in the world and has already received support from local First Nations.
Canadian officials this week announced the start of a new 30-day public comment period on the Canadian federal government’s environmental assessment of the controversial Kerr Sulphurets Mitchell mine proposal.
In their assessment they wrote, “The Agency is satisfied that identified mitigation measures for the project would address potential impacts in Alaska on fish; recreational and commercial fisheries and human health from changes to water quality and quantity in the Unuk River.”
Meanwhile, hundreds of Alaskan tribal members, fishermen and business owners feel differently.
A Canadian government environmental report on a proposed open pit mine northwest of Stewart, British Columbia, is raising concerns from Southeast Alaska fishing interests, who say the project could cause significant harm to salmon habitat.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s comprehensive study report on the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project, released on July 21, says the agency is satisfied that identified mitigation measures for the project would address potential environmental impacts.
These impacts include, according to the report, potential impacts in Alaska on fish, recreational and commercial fisheries and human health from changes to water quality and quantity in the Unuk River.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, on July 21 opened its fourth and final public comment period on the environmental assessment, which will run through Aug. 20.
The lengthy assessment centers on a proposal from the junior mining company Seabridge Gold Inc., to develop a gold, copper, silver and molybdenum mine, planning the Unuk and Bell-Irving watersheds some 65 kilometers northwest of Stewart, British Columbia. Seabridge Gold, with offices in Toronto, and Smithers, British Columbia, has identified the KSM project as one of the largest undeveloped gold projects in the world, with proven and probable reserves of 38.2 million ounces of gold and 9.9 billion pounds of copper.
The headwaters of the Unuk and Nass rivers lies just 19 miles from the Alaska border. The Unuk, which begins in Canada and flows into Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument, is a key Southeast Alaska king salmon and eulachon river. The Nass is British Columbia’s third largest salmon river, producing fish harvested by both Canadians and Alaskans.
Five gold-mining projects have been proposed on the British Columbia and Alaska watershed, threatening important salmon populations and pristine rivers. Chris Zimmer, the Alaska Campaign Director for Rivers without Borders, joins host Steve Curwood to discuss the environmental dangers of the proposed mines and the response of the two governments.
(To read and listen to complete interview, click "Living on Earth")
Around 300 people packed the Juneau Arts and Culture Center Wednesday night to hear author and National Geographic explorer Wade Davis, Tahltan first nation leaders, and Tlingit and Haida leaders speak on the sacred headwaters of the Stikine, Skeena and Nass rivers. The conversation led way to the threats posed to fish and Native ways of life by “the gold-rush mentality” of Canadian industrial development.
One major result of the Tahltan leaders’ visit was a Tlingit, Haida and Tahltan commitment to dissolve the “imaginary line” of the boundary and to work together on transboundary mines and other issues.
It has become an all-too-familiar story: Pristine waters. Salmon habitat. Sacred significance. Mining.
The Unuk River watershed, straddling the border between British Columbia and Alaska, is on track to become ground zero in a struggle to stop the world’s largest open-pit mine, Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM). The fight against it is uniting First Nations and Alaska Natives as they battle to preserve stewardship of the pristine region. And it is just one of five massive projects proposed for the region.
(To read the complete source article, click "Indian Country Today")
As it’s proposed, we cannot support the development of the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell Mine, better known as KSM, a transboundary mine currently under permitting near the southern tip of Southeast Alaska.
Alaskans reap none of the rewards but incur all the risk.
(To read the complete source article, click "Juneau Empire")
... This gold-copper project contains one of the largest undeveloped gold reserves of 38M ounces and 9.9B lbs of copper, but would require enormous capital expenditures to develop due to relatively low grades. Furthermore, economical parameters of the project reported in the PFS appeared un-attractive in the current volatile metal price environment.
British Columbia sees aggressive development of its natural resources as a way to improve its economy; Southeast Alaska fishermen, tribes and environmental organizations see it as a threat to their fisheries and way of life.
If built, the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine near the British Columbian border could produce more than 10 billion pounds of copper, 133 million ounces of silver, 38 million ounces of gold and 200 million pounds of molybdenum. It would also produce more than 2 billion tons of tailings, and one of its three open pit mines would be about as deep as the deepest open pit mine in the world today. Water treatment facilities filtering water from the mine site and into the Unuk River, which flows into Alaska’s Misty Fjords National Monument, may need to operate 200 years or more to prevent acid from draining into Southeast Alaska waters.
The proposed KSM Mine in British Columbia near Hyder is working through the Canadian permitting system and could start operating in just a couple of years. As more Southeast Alaska residents become aware of this mining project, more concerns have been raised about the potential effects on this side of the border. Some Southeast Native tribal leaders got together last week to discuss those concerns.
A proposed British Columbia transboundary mine that would dwarf any mining development in Alaska has attracted the attention of environmental groups in the state because of a concern that runoff from the mine will degrade Southeast Alaska’s fish habitats.
Southeast Alaska commercial fishermen are in Washington DC this week seeking help from the federal government to protect their region’s fisheries and tourism industries from potential water pollution from large-scale Canadian mines.
A report released today shows the Kerr Sulphurets Mitchell (KSM) mine proposed by Seabridge Gold Inc. would release metals into the Unuk watershed that would exceed levels known to have serious impacts on salmon.
Concern is mounting among Southeast Alaska fishermen, community leaders and tribes about a mining boom in British Columbia that could affect wild salmon and other species on the U.S. side of the border.
A native band downstream from what may become the biggest mine in Canada says it is worried about the long-term threat that pollution could pose to the Nass and Bell-Irving Rivers in northwest B.C.
“The mine’s life span is for 50 years and they are estimating that mine will be required to treat [waste water] for well over 200 years. And who’s going to be responsible for that?” Glen Williams, Hereditary Chief of the Gitanyow First Nation said Wednesday.
(To read complete source article, click "The Globe and Mail")
More than 60 fishermen, environmentalists, Tlingit and Haida Central Council representatives and concerned citizens packed the Silverbow Inn’s Backroom Wednesday night to hear about the potential impact some British Columbia mines may have on Southeast Alaska fisheries and tourism.
On August 12, Seabridge received confirmation from the Province of British Columbia regulatory authorities that its Application for an Environmental Assessment Certificate has now entered the 180-day review period. This is the second stage of the three-stage regulatory process.
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")
British Columbia's government is hitching its economic hopes for the province to a boom in resource development. Much of that is slated for the northwest. Resource journalist Christopher Pollon traveled to the region to learn how an anticipated boom of power lines, new mines and hydro projects will affect northern communities – for better and worse.
(To read complete source articles, click "The Tyee")