B.C., Alaska sign agreement boosting protection for shared waters on mine projects – by Rob Shaw (Vancouver Sun – October 6, 2016)


VICTORIA — B.C. and Alaska have formalized a deal to work together on cross-border mining projects and help protect waterways straddling both jurisdictions.

B.C. mines minister Bill Bennett said the “Statement of Cooperation on the Protection of Transboundary Waters” puts in writing requirements for the province to notify Alaska if there is any unplanned accidental discharge by a mine that could impact streams or waterways in the U.S. state. It establishes a bilateral working group and includes the Americans in the planning, design, environmental assessment and permitting processes for mines.

“So it’s not that this agreement changes how B.C. does this from a scientific or environmental or mining point of view. It’s that we are sharing a lot more information and we are agreeing that the things that we were not doing, which is making sure we had good baseline information on the rivers, we will in fact get that done in the near future,” Bennett said.

The deal formalizes part of an understanding between the two jurisdictions from last November. Those talks were born out of Alaska’s concern over B.C.’s mining safety following the breach of the Mount Polley tailings dam in August 2014, which spilled waste and water into lakes and streams northeast of Williams Lake.

Alaskans have been concerned that proposed mines on the B.C. side of the border could leach potentially toxic metals into streams and rivers that would harm the salmon population, which is an important part of the U.S. state’s economy.

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