Transboundary Tensions: B.C.’s New-Age Gold Rush Stirs Controversy Downstream in Alaska

Long-held perceptions of Canada as a country with strict environmental standards and B.C. as a province that values natural beauty are taking a near-fatal beating in Southeast Alaska, where many now regard Canadians as bad neighbours who are unilaterally making decisions that could threaten the region’s two major economic drivers — fishing and tourism.

Upstream, in northwest B.C., there is a new-style gold rush with an unprecedented number of applications for open-pit gold and copper mines, some made viable by construction of the Northwest Transmission Line and all requiring road access.

Canada is increasingly viewed as a “bad actor,” whose record — most recently illustrated by the Mount Polley mine tailings dam collapse — shows the province’s environmental regulations and oversight are not strong enough to protect downstream communities.

Alaskan politicians, tribes, fishing organizations and environmental groups have come together in a rare show of unity to condemn B.C.’s push to approve mines close to major transboundary salmon rivers, such as the Stikine, Taku and Unuk, which run from B.C. into Alaska. Tensions are running so high the groups are asking the International Joint Commission, designed to resolve Canada/U.S. water problems, to step in.

DeSmog Canada visits Alaska to investigate.

Photo: Mike Fay via Flickr

The original reporting in this series was made possible through the generous support of Wilburforce Foundation.

 

In this series

When B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett visited Southeast Alaska this summer, his aim was...
By Judith Lavoie, 30 Sep, 2015
Mount Polley dam failure
There are a few unarguable truths about mine tailings, the pulverized rock, water and sludge left...
By Judith Lavoie, 3 Sep, 2015
Bill Bennett
Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska and more consultation on B.C. mine...
By Judith Lavoie, 28 Aug, 2015
Taku Inlet
No fish in the car, warned the rental car attendant at Juneau airport, with the weary tone of...
By Judith Lavoie, 26 Aug, 2015
Smooth lumps of translucent blue ice float alongside rock-encrusted icebergs that have broken from...
By Judith Lavoie, 20 Aug, 2015
A powerful alliance of B.C. First Nations and Southeast Alaska natives has been forged in the...
By Judith Lavoie, 12 Aug, 2015
An ugly thread of misspent taxpayer dollars, environmental destruction and conflict-of-interest —...
By Judith Lavoie, 5 Aug, 2015
One year after 24 million cubic metres of mine sludge and water swept into rivers and lakes below...
By Judith Lavoie, 30 Jul, 2015
Wrangell, Alaska, wharf
Wrangell, Alaska — A fishing boat chugs across the water in front of the patio at Wrangell’s...
By Judith Lavoie, 23 Jul, 2015
Southeast Alaskans, anxious about B.C.'s mining boom along the Alaskan border, are pinning their...
By Judith Lavoie, 15 Jul, 2015
Iskut
Long-held perceptions of Canada as a country with strict environmental standards and B.C. as a...
By Judith Lavoie, 8 Jul, 2015