Letter to the Editor

B.C. needs to do more to protect transboundary rivers from mining

This August marked the seventh anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster. Mount Polley, located in British Columbia, is a large open-pit mine and its tailings dam collapsed, bringing significant negative impacts on the Quesnel Lake and Frasier River ecosystems, as well as local communities and cultures.

Since that time, no significant regulatory or legal changes have been made in British Columbia to address the risks of large-scale mines.

Although we do not have jurisdiction in B.C., we are impacted by their mining policies and their current lack of sufficient oversight of their mining industry. Currently, there are 26 mines proposed, abandoned or operating in the headwaters of our shared rivers, some of which are owned by the same company that owns Mount Polley.

Alaskans receive no direct financial benefits from the B.C. mining industry, but we do carry the risk of serious damage to the ecosystems in our rivers.

The fishing industry is vital to Southeast Alaska, and we don't have the luxury of taking on additional risks.

We are currently suffering from low fishing returns. The Unuk has already been deemed a stock of concern, and the Taku and Stikine are on the same path.

The fishing and mariculture industries produce $5.6 billion in economic output to Alaska's economy and employ almost 60,000 workers each year. In addition to economic benefits, fishing and mariculture bring countless other benefits to our communities. We need to protect our fishing industry.

As an Alaska lawmaker, I have fought hard to bring this issue to the forefront. Earlier this year, myself and multiple other legislators wrote a letter to B.C. Premier Horgan expressing our concerns and requesting better systems in the province. We specifically requested binding international agreements, water and wildlife monitoring, and reclamation bonds.

We have not yet heard back from Premier Horgan, but are hopeful that B.C. will open more lines of communication in the future.


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