Alaskans fear environmental, industrial threats from B.C. mines – by Dirk Meissner (Canadian Press – December 3, 2014)

Alaskan environmental, aboriginal groups say unchecked development threatens salmon and tourism industries

VICTORIA—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 unchecked development threatens their salmon and tourism industries.

Tribal leaders and salmon-protection advocates gathered at a Bureau of Indian Affairs conference in Anchorage, and high on the agenda was the impact of B.C. mineral developments on the multi-billion-dollar Alaskan industries.

Conference delegates called on the United States 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.

“We’re asking the U.S. federal government to elevate this issue to the International Joint Commission,” said Guy Archibald, a spokesperson for the southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Archibald said conservation and aboriginal groups have formed the Salmon Beyond Borders coalition to lobby their government to pressure Canada and B.C.

He said both Canada and the U.S. must formally request the International Joint Commission hearings.

“We see this region for its salmon and cultural benefits, and it seems like northwest B.C., in the same region, looks more towards mineral development as being the best use of the land, so we see there’s kind of a conflict going on here,” said Archibald in an interview just prior to his convention address.

The Alaskans say rapid industrial mine developments in B.C. threaten the headwaters of some of southeast Alaska’s prime salmon rivers, including the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers, which flow through Canada’s most-western province.

The Alaskans say the rivers are some of the most productive salmon rivers on the entire North American west coast, and have ecological, cultural and recreational uses and values.

Archibald said the Alaskans are deeply concerned about what they consider loose mining regulations in B.C., especially since the summertime tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake, in B.C.’s central Interior.

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