A Balancing Act at Granville Island
It was bound to happen–I just wondered when. With Pebble essentially down, attention now turns to new BC mines that may affect rivers that flow into Alaska. Here is a statement that hit my email this morning.
The largest and oldest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments that advocates for the United States to uphold its trust responsibility to Tribes has adopted a resolution to protect the water quality, salmon, and livelihoods of Southeast Alaskans from a mining boom in northwest British Columbia.
The resolution, passed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in June, requests that “Congress, the White House, and the State Department engage directly with the Canadian government on B.C.’s proposed mines to protect the health and productivity of Southeast Alaska’s waters by ensuring they are not damaged by development upstream;”
Five large open pit and underground mines are in various stages of permitting and construction in the BC side of transboundary watersheds that drain into three of Southeast Alaska’s most productive salmon rivers: Taku, Stikine, and Unuk.
Southeast Alaska communities downstream from the mines will face negative impacts and risks to clean water, salmon and hooligan runs, wildlife and livelihoods, yet will receive no economic benefit from the mines, the resolution notes.
NCAI’s resolution also points out that B.C.’s large mine development in the transboundary region is happening under Canadian laws and regulations that have been significantly weakened over the past few years and that Canadian and B.C. mine permitting processes are not as strong as Alaskan regulations regarding water and salmon protections.
“I’m heartened that NCAI is standing in solidarity with us. Many Southeast Alaskan tribes also passed resolutions expressing concern about the B.C. mining developments that could harm our waters, salmon, and ultimately our culture and livelihoods in Southeast Alaska,” said Rob Sanderson Jr, co-chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, a tribal coalition advocating for the protection water quality and lands in the Southeast Alaskan/northern British Columbian transboundary region.
Sanderson is also the second vice-president of the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, one of the member Tribes on the Work Group and also a Tribe that passed its own resolutions expressing concern about BC mining.
“We will speak out until the United States and Canadian governments take adequate steps to protect our waters, fish, and way of life in Southeast Alaska for current and future generations,” Sanderson says.
Canadian government officials have released an environmental assessment (EA) for the Kerr-Sulpherrets-Mitchell (KSM) Mine, a proposed copper/gold/molybdenum mine located in the headwaters of the Unuk River that flows into Southeast Alaska near Ketchikan. The EA, which is now open to public comment, concluded that the proposed mitigation measures for protecting Alaskan waters and fish are adequate. Southeast tribes are not confident in the EA and are pushing for Canada to do a Panel Review, a more stringent examination of the proposed mine.
John Morris Jr, co-chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group and a member of the Ketchikan Indian Community tribal council, stated ”the Work Group will submit comments on the EA and will strongly urge Canada to conduct a full Panel Review of the KSM mine. Based on the NCAI resolution and the United States’ trust responsibility, the Work Group will also encourage the United States government to submit comments and to request a Panel Review.”
Public comment period for the proposed KSM Mine is open until August 20th. See http://salmonbeyondborders.org/ for information on this comment period.
To read the NCAI resolution, visit: http://www.ncai.org/resolutions/ANC-14-013_Reso_and_Rec.pdf
Paddling against the tide in poor equipment