Opinion: B.C. mines threaten Alaska fisheries – by Cynthia Wallesz (Vancouver Sun – May 25, 2016)


Cynthia Wallesz is executive director of the United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters.

For two years, I’ve been learning about B.C.’s mining industry and how it is threatening water, ecosystems, salmon and jobs downstream in Southeast Alaska.

It’s been shocking to realize the significant inadequacies of B.C.’s mining regulatory processes. For example, mining companies are not required to use best available technologies or practices to reduce risks, nor do they provide compensation to those affected by pollution from large-scale open-pit projects at the headwaters of world-class river systems.

These inadequacies were confirmed recently in an email I received from B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett in response to my question, “How would our fishing fleet be financially compensated if we suffered financial losses from real or perceived water quality contamination from B.C.’s projects?”

The minister wrote: “With respect to your specific question around financial losses from water quality contamination, British Columbia does not have legislation that specifically governs the provision of compensation of individuals and companies locates (sic) in the U.S.A. In such an event, compensation would need to be handled by agreement with the person or operators causing the pollution or through other means.”

A mining company agreeing to compensate affected Alaska fishermen and communities is at best unrealistic. Chieftain Metals Corp., owner of Tulsequah Chief project, recently defaulted on one of its loans. As the company experiences financial instability, its project leaks acid mine drainage into the Taku watershed, just a quick boat ride away from downtown Juneau.

For the rest of this opinion column, click here: http://vancouversun.com/opinion/opinion-b-c-mines-threaten-alaska-fisheries