VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s mines minister says he’s aiming to ease Alaska residents’ fears that their region could be harmed by a disaster similar to the Mount Polley accident in the province’s Interior.
Bill Bennett met with mining representatives in Alaska last November, four months after a tailings dam burst and spilled 24 million cubic metres of waste into area waterways, including salmon-bearing rivers.
However, Alaskans living downstream from northwestern B.C. mines said Bennett ignored their worries about the potential for mining pollution flowing their way in the event of another catastrophe.
A year after the August 2014 spill, Bennett said he’s taking the lead from state officials who have arranged dozens of meetings with conservation groups and tribal associations.
A week-long tour that began Sunday replaced plans for a southeast Alaska symposium the ministry stopped pursuing after feedback that the gesture only amounted to lip service.
Local advocates remain skeptical, but have agreed to participate.
“I’m going to get around a bit and see what it’s like to live in southeast Alaska and why people feel so passionate about protecting what they have there,” Bennett said in an interview.
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