A coalition of conservation groups and Alaska Native tribal governments are asking Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to investigate six hard rock mines in British Columbia and their anticipated impact on salmon-rich transboundary watershed.
The coalition petitioned Ross on September 26 to join the Interior Department and other federal agencies in bringing the issue before the International Joint Commission, the governing body of the Boundary Waters Treaty between the two countries.
The coalition’s concern is that development of these six British Columbia mines will adversely impact the salmon-rich transboundary watersheds of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers, which flow across the Canadian border into Alaska. The salmon are critical for sustenance to wildlife, as well as to thousands of people who harvest and process these fish commercially, for sport and subsistence. While not among the signers of the petition, Dale Kelly, executive director of the Alaska Trollers Association, said that ATA shares their concerns and has worked alongside some of those signers for years.
The petition was submitted on behalf of the signers by the Alaska regional office of EarthJustice under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act of 1967, a federal law enacted in 1971. The aim of the Pelly Amendment itself was to boost the effectiveness of international programs for the conservation of threatened and endangered species.
The petition analyzes the mine projects and their potential impacts on watersheds and invokes the shared duty of the federal agencies to investigate when foreign nationals may be diminishing the effectiveness of U.S. conservation treaties.
The conservation and tribal entities contend that the transboundary watersheds are endangered by the development of metals mines in British Columbia. Listed in the petition are the Tulsequah Chief, Red Chris, Schaft Creek, Galore Creek, Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell and Brucejack mines. All six mines involve large-scale infrastructure development and generate large quantities of tailings and mine wastes, and require water treatment in perpetuity.
The petition is posted online at https://earthjustice.org/documents/letter/letter-to-commerce-secretary-ross