salmon

B.C. Urged to Review Industry-Funded Science Behind Approval of Gravel Mine

Howe Sound Salmon Burnco Aggregates Gravel Mine DeSmog Canada

A controversial proposal for a gravel mine at the mouth of a salmon-bearing creek on Howe Sound is a graphic illustration of a broken environmental assessment process — one that relies on science paid for by the proponent, say opponents of the Burnco Aggregate Project on McNab Creek.

This project is going to impact one of only three estuaries in Howe Sound and it’s critical for salmon spawning habitat, but there is no independent data even on how many salmon are in the creek,” Tracey Saxby, marine scientist and volunteer executive director of the environmental organization My Sea to Sky, told DeSmog Canada.

The company plans to extract up to 1.6 million tonnes of gravel a year for 16 years, which would be shipped from a marine barge loading facility to company operations in Burnaby and Langley.

In Photos: The Canadian Mining Boom You’ve Never Seen Before

Red Chris mine

If you’re in Vancouver this is way out in the middle of nowhere, but way out in the middle of nowhere is our backyard.”

Those are the words of Frederick Otilius Olsen Jr., the tribal president of a traditional Haida village on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

When I met him, he had travelled to Ketchikan, Alaska, to meet with officials about the risk posed by the mining boom across the border in British Columbia.

He stood on the boardwalk overlooking Ketchikan’s fishing fleet and waved his hands animatedly while he told me about how his culture — and southern Alaska’s economy — depends on salmon.

Alaskans Push U.S. Government to Investigate B.C.’s Border Mines

Red Chris Mine by Garth Lenz|DeSmog Canada

Fish and wildlife in Alaska’s major watersheds are threatened by six British Columbia mines close to the Alaska border, according to a new petition that asks U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to investigate the threat of acid-mine drainage, heavy metals pollution and the possibility of catastrophic dam failure originating in the Canadian province.

The formal petition, organized by a coalition of Alaskan tribal governments and conservation groups, calls for the International Joint Commission to investigate threats from B.C. mines that will continue to hang over the watersheds for centuries after their closure.

It’s a very urgent issue and it’s important to a lot of people and their families,” Kenta Tsuda of Earthjustice, a signatory of the petition, told DeSmog Canada. “Their communities are at risk.”

Amid Closure of B.C. Salmon Fisheries, Study Finds Feds Failed to Monitor Stocks

Adams River sockeye, A.S. Wright

Canada has failed to monitor and gather data on 50 per cent of all managed salmon populations on B.C.’s north and central coasts, according to a study released Monday in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Researchers from Simon Fraser University found the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is monitoring fewer streams now than before the introduction of a wild salmon policy in 2005 that was designed to assess the health of wild salmon populations and aid those deemed at risk.

Our knowledge of salmon populations in B.C. is eroding,” study co-author and Simon Fraser University researcher Michael Price told DeSmog Canada. “And it’s really frustrating.”

A number of salmon fisheries, including the Fraser and Skeena River sockeye fisheries, closed due to low salmon runs this summer.

Price and co-researcher John Reynolds found that since the 1980s, annual counts of spawning streams have declined by 70 per cent.

Pacific NorthWest LNG Hits Road Block as Gas Pipeline Sent Back to National Energy Board by Federal Court

Site of Pacific NorthWest LNG

The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) made a legal mistake by not considering whether TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline is under federal jurisdiction, thus requiring NEB approval.

The 900-kilometre natural gas pipeline would move mostly fracked gas from northeastern B.C. to the proposed Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near Prince Rupert.

The pipeline was approved by the B.C. government but Smithers, B.C., resident Mike Sawyer requested that the NEB hold a full hearing to determine whether the pipeline is actually in federal jurisdiction.

Mining Company Gets Federal Approval to Use B.C. Fish-Bearing Streams to Dump Tailings

KSM mine location. Mike Fay. Rivers Without Borders

Two fish-bearing creeks will be used for 2.3 billion tonnes of toxic tailings from the proposed Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine in northwest B.C., wiping out habitat for several populations of small Dolly Varden fish.

Seabridge Gold Inc. has been given federal government approval to use upper tributaries of the North Treaty and South Teigen Creeks, which flow into the Nass and Bell-Irving rivers, for tailings from the planned gold, copper and molybdenum mine 65 kilometres northwest of Stewart and 30 kilometres from the Alaska border.

Once in operation, KSM is set to become the largest open pit mine in North America. Construction is set to begin in 2017.

Unmonitored Mining Pollutes Fraser River, Threatens Salmon Runs: Report

Fraser River

Hundreds of placer mines, which have never undergone environmental assessments, are operating in the Fraser River watershed with minimal government oversight despite mounting evidence that the operations pollute water and harm salmon, a report by the Fair Mining Collaborative has found.

Placer mining involves digging up gravel adjacent to streams and rivers and washing it to extract the gold or other minerals in the sediment. In addition to mines that use excavation equipment, there are thousands of hand-mining operations, many of which do not have permits, the report found.

The report, commissioned by First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), calls for a moratorium on claim staking and work permits until the process is reformed and adequate safeguards are put in place, with First Nations given a partnership role in coming up with rules and regulations.

I go around our territory and see all the destruction in the back country. It’s criminal if you ask me,” Bev Sellars, FNWARM chair and former chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation, said in an interview.

Comparing Mine Management in B.C. and Alaska is Embarrassing (and Explains Why Alaskans Are So Mad)

Tulsequah Chief Mine. CSMPhoto

Alaskans tired of living under the threat of B.C.’s poorly regulated mines are taking the matter to the state’s House Fisheries Committee in an effort to escalate an international response to ongoing issues such as the slow leakage of acidic waste from the deserted Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C. into the watershed of one of the richest salmon runs in the B.C./Alaska transboundary region.

On Thursday the committee will assess a resolution sponsored by several House Representatives “urging the United States government to continue to work with the government of Canada to investigate the long-term, region-wide downstream effects of proposed and existing industrial development and to develop measures to ensure that state resources are not harmed by upstream development in B.C.”

Although Tulsequah is a catalyst, concerns go deeper as B.C. is handing out permits for a clutch of proposed new mines close to the Alaskan border, including the KSM mine, the largest open-pit gold and copper mine in North America.

‘Our Salmon Will Not Survive’: Gitxsan Nation Raising Funds to Fight Pacific Northwest LNG in Court

Salmon

Between the Site C dam, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and the Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility, it’s hard to keep track of all the projects that have been approved in B.C. But for First Nations that will be affected by the Pacific NorthWest LNG terminal and pipelines, the environmental and cultural impacts are impossible to escape.

In what is now the fourth federal lawsuit filed against the federal government’s approval of the $36 billion LNG project, two Gitxsan Nation hereditary chiefs have filed a judicial review arguing that Pacific NorthWest LNG infringes on their Aboriginal fishing rights.

In October of last year, judicial reviews were also filed in federal court by the Gitanyow and Gitwilgyoots First Nations, as well as the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust.

The main concern? Salmon. Specifically, salmon stocks in the Skeena watershed, which supports Canada's second-largest salmon run. The LNG export terminal is planned for Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert, a site the federal government studied 40 years ago and found unsuitable or port development.  

Southeast Alaskans Ask Canada to Strengthen Its Environmental Laws

British Columbia’s environmental review process simply isn’t strong enough to protect Alaskan communities and rivers from the province’s mining boom, Jill Weitz, American campaigner with Salmon Beyond Borders, recently told a panel reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment process.

Weitz, who works to protect Alaska’s wild salmon runs, traveled to Prince Rupert to tell a trio of experts appointed by the federal government how a more robust federal environmental assessment process could help address transboundary concerns arising in the wake of B.C.’s major push for new mines.

The federally appointed panel is currently reviewing the environmental assessment process managed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency which is responsible for reviewing major development projects including pipelines, oil and gas development and mines. Changes made under the previous federal government excluded major mines in British Columbia from the federal environmental assessment process — a legislative change Weitz and others say left Alaska in an uncomfortable position.

The transboundary region traversing the border of northwest B.C. and southeast Alaska is home to three major salmon rivers, the Taku, Stikine and Unuk. The rivers flow into Alaska from an area in B.C. that is home to 10 new mines either proposed or already under construction.

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