Transboundary Mining Prompts Concerns from Alaska Lawmakers

Transboundary Mining Prompts Concerns from Alaska Lawmakers

Binding International Agreements Needed to Protect Fishing and Tourism Industries

Anchorage – Several Alaska lawmakers have sent a letter to Alaska Governor Bill Walker stressing the need for action to protect the watersheds of Southeast Alaska from the negative downstream impacts of large-scale hard rock mining in British Columbia. The ten lawmakers are urging the Governor to develop partnerships with other states that border British Columbia to demand binding international agreements mandating a transparent environmental review process for mining projects. In the letter, the Alaska lawmakers insist the environmental review process satisfy the concerns of U.S., Canadian, and Tribal governments.

“The Tulsequah Chief Mine in B.C. has been closed for over 60 years, but that has not stopped this failed mine from polluting a tributary of the Taku River with acid mine drainage for decades. I would label the response from the British Columbia government as inadequate. The cultural, economic, and social importance of the Taku River can’t be overstated, and I want to make sure the valid concerns about transboundary mining remain front and center,” said Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka), one of the signatories to the letter sent last month to Governor Walker.

Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana all currently face similar issues and concerns with upstream mining activity in British Columbia. In the letter, the ten Alaska lawmakers stress that the U.S. must demand binding international agreements that include enforceable financial assurances that mines are safe. The lawmakers also want funding for the collection of baseline water quality data and fish and wildlife assessments in transboundary watersheds. They are also calling for long-term environmental monitoring to be paid for by mine developers.

“The threat of environmental ruin from a poorly conceived mine hangs over the head of the commercial fishing and tourism industries in Alaska. It also threatens the traditional and customary ways of life of all Southeast Alaska residents. That’s why we need a transparent environmental review process that ensures these transboundary mines can be developed safely and responsibly,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan), who also signed the letter.

Other signers of the letter include Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham), Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage), Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage), Rep. Justin Parish (D-Juneau), Rep. Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak), Rep. Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage), Sen. Dennis Egan (D-Juneau), and Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak).

The issues related to transboundary mining will be discussed during a public workshop in Juneau on June 1st. The workshop is sponsored by Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott and will feature representatives from the U.S. and British Columbia governments along with tribal, environmental, and fishery stakeholders. 

For more information, please contact Caroline Hamp in Rep. Ortiz’s office at (907) 247-4672.

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