Acoalition of Indigenous tribes is increasing pressure on the Canadian government to respond to their concerns over transboundary water pollution coming from Teck Resources coal mines in British Columbia. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in Montana, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and the transboundary Ktunaxa Nation sent reminders on Aug. 11 that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had pledged to meet this summer with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on reducing and mitigating the impacts of selenium and other mine-related contaminants getting into the Elk and Kootenai rivers.
Selenium in particular has been connected to significant declines in fish reproduction in the river system, along with massive fish kills near the mine site itself, although a disputed Teck study concluded that ice, not selenium was responsible for the 2017 die-off.
“We continue to see impacts of coal mining more than a hundred kilometers downstream of these coal mines,” Vice Chairman of the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho Gary Aitken Jr. wrote in an email on Friday. “We see our fish populations declining despite our own hatchery efforts to sustain them. We see our waters becoming worse.
While pollution loads continue to increase, we see less than 20% of the selenium load being removed, despite nine years of implementation of a provincial plan to reduce and mitigate water quality concentrations. We are watching our river suffer as the regulators stand by and watch.”