Canada’s Mines Could Harm Alaska’s Salmon — and Its Economy – by Sarah Berman (Vice News – August 18, 2015)

By volume it was one of the biggest mining waste spills ever recorded, and it happened just over a year ago in central British Columbia.

The earthen walls of a massive tailings pond collapsed at Imperial Metals’s Mount Polley copper and gold mine, dumping 25 million cubic meters of sludge and wastewater containing arsenic, mercury, and selenium into salmon-bearing waterways. An 12.8 million cubic meter deposit of mining waste remains at the bottom of Quesnel Lake, where about one million sockeye salmon spawn each year. The long-term biological impacts on those salmon are still unknown.

On the one year anniversary of that environmental disaster — more than 1,000 kilometers northwest of the spill site — Alaskans marched in the streets of a small fishing town to protest a recently-opened copper and gold mine from the same BC company. Fishing, wilderness, and indigenous rights advocates on both sides of the border say Imperial Metals’s Red Chris mine is too similar to Mount Polley and far too close to valuable Stikine River salmon stocks.

“It was really alarming,” Paula Dobbyn, communications director of Trout Unlimited in Alaska, said of the Mount Polley spill. “It didn’t flow into a transboundary river, but for us it showed how lax BC mining law and regulation is.”

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Alaskans concerned with Canadian mining plans – by Becky Bohrer (Associated Press/Durango Herald – August 16, 2015)

JUNEAU, Alaska – A provincial map showing the planned or potential mining activity in British Columbia is so pocked that Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott says it looks like it has the measles. It’s the cluster of dots in northwest British Columbia – including a prospect billed as one of the largest undeveloped gold projects in the world – that has many residents across the border in southeast Alaska on edge.

While it’s not clear how many of the projects ultimately may become mines – many are only in exploration – last year’s failure of a mine-waste storage facility in another part of British Columbia heightened fears about how development near Alaska’s shared border with the province could impact salmon-bearing rivers and streams that flow into southeast Alaska.

Currently seven major projects have potential trans-boundary implications. One is the Red Chris copper and gold mine, upstream from the Alaska towns of Wrangell and Petersburg, which received final permits in June.

It’s owned by Imperial Metals, which also owns Mount Polley Mine, the site of last August’s tailings dam breach that sent water and mine-related materials into waters near the mine. Activists in Alaska said the incident showed that dams can fail.

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Northern Dynasty’s Last Stand – by Tommy Humphreys ( – August 13, 2015)

Pebble’s new backers bet on EPA compromise and new JV partner for the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold deposit

Two experienced mining financiers are making a $4.7 million bet that one of the world’s largest and most controversial minerals deposits is about to turn a major corner.

Frank Giustra and Gord Keep’s Cannon Point Resources (CNP.TSXv) is being acquired by Northern Dynasty Minerals (NDM.T) for a touch over its cash value (C$4.7 million). Pro forma, the deal would give Cannon Point about 8% of Northern Dynasty.

Northern Dynasty owns 100% of the Pebble Deposit in Alaska. The project saw over C$750 million of investment over the past decade and contains a jaw-dropping 107 million ounces of gold, 80 billion pounds of copper, 5 billion pounds of molybdenum, and over 500 million ounces of silver* and showed robust economics at $1050 gold and $2.50 copper in a February 2011 PEA.

Pebble is also vehemently opposed by the EPA, which began a process to veto the project in February 2014 and more recently has tried to impose development restrictions.

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B.C. First Nations and Alaskan Natives Join Forces to Fight Border Mines – by Judith Lavoie (Desmog – August 12, 2015)

A powerful alliance of B.C. First Nations and Southeast Alaska natives has been forged in the aftermath of the Mount Polley dam collapse and tribes, who have not worked together for generations, are aiming to put the brakes on B.C.’s border mining boom.

Tears flowed after a May meeting in Vancouver when Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and vice-president Bob Chamberlin agreed to support the newly formed United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group in its bid for Alaskan — and particularly tribal — input into B.C.’s decision-making process on mines along the Southeast Alaska border.

“We are bringing together the tribes from both sides of the border and building a relationship. We can make more noise together than when we are separated by a border that has not been part of our tradition,” said Mike Hoyt, leader of the Teeyhittaan clan from the Stikine River.

It was a historic meeting that could be a catalyst for change, according to Phillip.

“It was very significant, coming together with our brothers and sisters in Alaska. I think it was a long time coming,” he said.

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My Turn: One year after disaster, mining threats remain – by Aaron Angerman (Juneau Empire – July 28, 2015)

As a member of the Shtax’heen Kwaan (Stikine Tribe) in Wrangell, I am frightened to think that what happened at Mount Polley could happen here in our back yard now that the Red Chris Mine is operational. That the fish we’ve relied on traditionally for thousands of years could be contaminated or disappear, that the local commercial fishing industry could be decimated, and that we could see the local businesses that rely on the industry close doors.

Neither the community of Wrangell or the Stikine Tribe were consulted in the years of planning and construction upstream. Tahltan Nation is receiving financial benefits, but the waste flows immediately out of their waters and into ours. If the tailings dams were to give way at Red Chris Mine, an entire community will be left to pick up the pieces of a puzzle that will never again be whole.

The Red Chris Mine is located on the Iskut River, the largest tributary in the Stikine headwaters. Red Chris is owned by Imperial Metals, the same company responsible for Mount Polley. Red Chris is a larger operation than its sister mine, and it has tailings that are much more toxic.

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Empire Editorial: Canada can say ‘no’ to mining (Juneau Empire – July 24, 2015)

This newspaper in the past year has questioned Canada’s mining standards, including if they exist. In light of the August 2014 failure of the Mount Polley Mine tailings dam that sent billions of gallons of toxic tailings and contaminated water into Southeast Alaska waters, there is ample reason to be concerned.

But there’s also reason to be hopeful, however, that Southeast residents’ concerns are being listened to across the border.

The recent decision by Canadian officials to send Pacific Booker Minerals, Inc., back to the drawing board to reassess its plans for the Morrison Mine, a proposed open pit copper and gold mine in the Skeena River watershed, is a promising sign for those concerned with environmental consequences down stream.

Pacific Booker Minerals was denied an Environmental Assessment certificate not once but twice, as Empire reporter Mary Catherine Martin wrote in an article published in today’s Outdoors section. The second came after the mining company sued and the BC Supreme Court asked the country’s Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Energy and Mines to reconsider its 2012 denial.

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To talk transboundary mining, Taku Tlingit put folks in the same boat – by Katie Moritz (Juneau Empire – July 13, 2015)

Taku Tlingit reinforce cultural ties to land in discussion on transboundary mines

Lillian Petershoare’s family fishes the Taku River and has done so for decades. A new generation is now learning the tradition. John Morris “grew up on the Taku until I was 15 years old; I knew no other place.”

Barbara Cadiente-Nelson read a passage by Elizabeth Nyman: “This river, this watershed … know who you are and, if you permit it, it will tell you.”

Tlingit men and women whose lineage can be traced to the Taku River area spoke on their connection to the water and the land during a daylong boat trip down the Taku River on Sunday. The cruise was organized by the Douglas Indian Association.

The trip was meant to “put us on the same boat” — drawing a link between Tlingit connection to the land and the need for mainstream awareness and protection of its resources, said the DIA’s Morris, addressing the diverse group of passengers on the catamaran.

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Activists: Canada mine approvals threaten Alaska fishing communities – by Renee Lewis (Al – July 10, 2015)

Almost one year after an unprecedented spill from a mine tailings pond in Canada’s largely pristine province of British Columbia, its government has given the green light for the mine to reopen — worrying environmentalists who say a number of other northern B.C. copper and gold mines are in various phases of approval, and could threaten downstream fishing communities in southeastern Alaska.

The provincial government on Thursday approved a restart of Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine, which has been closed since its waste dam failed last August and released 6.6 billion gallons of toxic tailings including arsenic, lead and nickel into salmon-producing lakes and streams of the Fraser River watershed.

Residents of southeastern Alaska, many of whom depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods, expressed concern at the announcement.

“The British Columbia and Canadian governments seem to be glossing over the Mount Polley disaster by ignoring recommendations of mining experts who studied the dam failure and warned that the province should stop allowing the same risky tailings dam technology,” said an emailed statement from Heather Hardcastle, a commercial fisherman from Juneau, Alaska, and campaign coordinator for Salmon Beyond Borders.

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Mount Polley to re-open after last year’s disaster – by Mary Catharine Martin (Juneau Empire – July 10, 2015)

Two British Canadian ministries announced Thursday that they are allowing Imperial Metals Corporation to re-open Mount Polley mine after last August’s tailings dam failure, which released billions of gallons of toxic tailings and contaminated water into the Quesnel Lake watershed. Southeast Alaskans concerned about Canada’s mining boom decried the move, saying the authorization ignores detailed recommendations of an independent review panel whose report was released earlier this year.

This is the first of three steps Mount Polley will need to begin operating as it did this time last year, said Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett and Minister of Environment Mary Polak in a press release. They’ve granted the company the ability to begin conditional operations; it will not be able to release water from the site.

“In the early fall, the company will need a second conditional permit to treat and discharge water in order for operations to continue. Lastly, the company must submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to government by June 30, 2016. The mine will not be authorized to continue to operate long-term if it fails to complete either of the last two steps,” Bennett said in the press release.

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Home Runs: Alaska’s leaders must walk their salmon talk [B.C. Mines] – by Malena Marvin (Juneau Empire – July 9, 2015)

Malena Marvin is the Executive Director of Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Walk up to most houses in rural Southeast Alaska, including ours, and the first thing you see is an impossibly long row of battered XtraTuf rubber boots. There are boots for the family, the friends who stopped by to chat, extras for the summer folks who came to visit or work as crew, and probably a pair or two with mysterious origins. Together, they tell a story of a certain way of life, one lived by the tidelines and on the water, and one defined by adventure and hard work outdoors.

Wrangellite or Skagwegian, Republican or Democrat, Native or newcomer, our families are diverse. But our family values in this place do have a few common elements. Jars full of berries and fish are the obvious one. A commitment to taking care of friends and neighbors is another. I also look across the islands and fjords of our region and see that few of us are more than one degree of separation from a family whose livelihood depends on fishing or tourism dollars.

It’s in reverence to our unique way of life, to these things that unify us, that today I’m asking Gov. Bill Walker to work harder for clean water, and to walk his talk about putting Alaska’s fish first when it comes to policy.

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Red Chris Mine gets green light from B.C. government (Canadian Press/CBC News BC – June 19, 2015)

Mine is owned by same company that operates Mount Polley

A gold and copper mine in northwestern B.C. that still faces angry opposition from its neighbours in Alaska has received approval for a full operating permit from the provincial government.

B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett announced Friday that the Red Chris Mine, owned by Imperial Metals, will soon be in full production, despite environmental concerns from First Nations, environmental groups and Alaskans, who are downstream from the mine site.

Those worries were magnified last summer, when a tailings pond collapsed at the Mount Polley mine, another Imperial Metals-owned mine in interior B.C.

Bennett said he’s confident the Red Chris Mine, located about 130 kilometres from the Alaska border, won’t experience a similar breach because the tailings storage facility has undergone three independent reviews.

He noted the mine has operated successfully for months on a temporary permit while officials monitored the facility.

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My Turn: Enough is enough – we need international oversight now – by Rob Sanderson (Juneau Empire – JUne 17, 2015)

Rob Sanderson Jr. is the 2nd vice president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, co-chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, and president of the Ketchikan Tlingit and Haida Community Council.

Mount Polley’s owner received its permit to operate the Red Chris Mine in the headwaters of the Stikine River despite assurances from the British Columbia Minister of Mines that these types of tailings dams would not be used following the disastrous failure of the Mount Polley dam.

B.C.’s words do not match their actions.

The government of B.C. continues to downplay the need for any international oversight over the watersheds flowing into Southeast Alaska stating that we have nothing to worry about from the huge mining projects both active and proposed in these watersheds. The government of British Columbia, through their rigorous permitting and enforcement process, has everything under control. There are even those in Alaska repeating these same words.

So far, just like the permits themselves, these are only words. Words did not stop the Mount Polley dam failure. The B.C. government issued the final permit for the operation of the Red Chris Mine’s tailings dam despite serious concerns about dam safety and the ability of Canadian regulators to oversee these operations.

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