Protecting southeast Alaska rivers from B.C. mines

Southeast Alaska, Photo by Chris Miller

By Paula Dobbyn

Spurred by weakened environmental and fishery regulations and the construction of a massive new power line, over a dozen industrial mines are undergoing permitting or advanced exploration in the mineral-rich region bordering Southeast Alaska.

At least five of these Canadian mineral projects are located in key salmon-producing watersheds that drain into the transboundary Taku, the Stikine and Unuk Rivers. These rivers and their tributaries provide some of the most productive habitat left on the planet for wild salmon, steelhead and trout.  The mines are likely to produce acid mine drainage and toxic heavy metals that could harm Southeast Alaska’s lucrative fishing and tourism industries as well as the traditional practices of Alaska Native tribes. These large-scale projects offer few, if any, economic benefits to Alaska.

Despite the challenges of fighting harmful development in a foreign country, TU-AK is successfully partnering with sport and commercial fishermen, tribes, First Nations, tourism operators and others interested in protecting this spectacular region. Thousands of public comments have been gathered expressing support for increased Canadian oversight of mining development in B.C. and for U.S. State Department involvement. TU-AK and partners are calling for Secretary of State John Kerry to activate the International Joint Commission, a bilateral organization that serves to resolve transboundary water disputes between Canada and the United States.

Concern about B.C. mining in the transboundary region grew stronger recently after massive tailings dam breach occurred at the Mount Polley mine in central B.C. The ramifications of this catastrophic event – Canada’s worst mining accident to date – and its impacts on fisheries, water quality and communities are not likely to be known for years. But we do know we don’t want them repeated in Southeast Alaska.  

We encourage you to get involved and learn more about the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign, news coverage, and how you can join the fight to protect some of the world’s best salmon, steelhead and trout fishing.

In the News and on the Web:

Canadian Mine Near Southeast Alaska Moves Forward, Trout Unlimited blog

Canadian Mines Threaten Southeast Alaska Fishing and Tourism Industries, Trout Unlimited blog

BC Mine Failure Shows Why Pebble Is A Disaster In The Making, Trout Unlimited blog

BC Mine Disaster Proves Need For More Review of New Mines, Trout Unlimited blog

Mount Polley Disaster Can Repeat Itself If Lessons Aren’t Learned, Trout Unlimited blog

Mount Polley Isn’t the Only Canadian Mining Threat, Pacific Fishing

Mine Field: The Trout and Salmon-Rich Rivers of Southeast Alaska Face a New Threat, Fly Rod and Reel

B.C. Mining Boom, Recent Tailings Pond Bust Prompt Environmental Fears in Alaska, Vancouver Sun

Clark’s Mining Push Meets Resistance, The Globe and Mail

The Transboundary Conundrum, The Drake

Mining for Answers, First Alaskans

Paula Dobbyn is the Communications Director for Trout Unlimited's Alaska program in Anchorage.

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