JUNEAU — Top British Columbia mining regulators this week have been trying to improve relations with Alaska that have been strained by several controversial mines and are even talking about cleanup of a British Columbia mine that’s been polluting Taku Inlet for decades.
Provincial Minister of Energy and Mines William Bennett said Wednesday in Juneau that could mean an agreement to give Alaska more of a say in what happens over the border, and that Alaska should have a larger role.
The state’s bigger role might include permitting new mines and monitoring operating mines. “I think it’s fair to say that Alaska doesn’t have a lot of access to that information,” Bennett said.
But while the minister was offering to sign a memorandum of agreement or understanding with Alaska, Alaskans in Juneau were demanding more.
John Morris, a member of the Juneau-based Douglas Indian Association’s tribal council, described a memorandum of understanding as “nothing more than a formal handshake” and said it would be better to use the Boundary Waters Treaty to see that Alaska’s interests were protected.
That was also the message to the administration of Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott from a coalition of environmental groups, fishing organizations and tribal bodies that held a protest at Alaska’s Capitol Wednesday.
The groups demanded that the administration get “extra tough” on British Columbia mines.
To drive the point home, they presented the state leaders with more than 100 pairs of Xtratufs, the iconic rubber boots, collected from Southeast towns they say are threatened by proposed Canadian mines.
Sitka’s Edie Leghorn urged the treaty be invoked, likely over the objections of British Columbia.
“These mines are an international problem, and as such they require an international solution,” she said.
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