B.C.’s Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett is traveling through Alaska in hopes to ease tensions from residents there caused by a tailings pond dam bust at Mount Polley over a year ago.
The disaster not only sent 24 million cubic meters of contaminated water and mining waste into creeks and rivers near Likely, B.C., but it also raised concerns from Alaskan residents and environmental groups who say they don’t have a meaningful role in the prevention of a similar disaster which could affect their state.
“We don’t have any voice and British Columbia and Canada have no accountability. We’re taking all of the risks of these large-scale mining projects and receiving none of the benefits,” said Heather Hardcastle, a commercial fisher in Alaska.
Bennett is currently undergoing his week long tour of the northernmost U.S state which began on Sunday. He spoke to Chris Brown of CBC Radio’s Early Edition about the trip and the need to repair any damaged relationships with the residents there.
How do you respond to that issue that the people of Alaska don’t have a voice [in B.C.’s mining projects]?
One of the incorrect impressions that has been established in southeast Alaska over the past year is that Alaskans don’t have a seat at the table, so to speak. The Alaskan government has been working very, very closely with us on this trip.
They actually do have a very important role in the assessments of mining projects in the transboundary waters and we’ve given them an additional role in terms of the permitting of mines and the ongoing monitoring of mines.
That’s one of the reasons we’re here, to talk to them about what else we can do to give the state of Alaska more access.
Heather Hardcastle represents some of the conservation organizations. We have to figure out how we can give those folks and the tribal interests here more direct access into the information that they need to make their minds up as to whether or not we’re doing a good job in B.C. She’s not all wrong, but she’s not all right either.
For the rest of this article and a radio interview, click here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-mine-s-minister-bill-bennett-responds-to-alaskan-criticism-1.3203360