KSM mine

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.”

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.

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.

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.

Alaskans Find Flaw in B.C. Study Showing Acid Drainage from Abandoned Mine Does Not Affect Fish

Acid mine drainage from the Tulsequah Chief mine in northwest B.C. has worried and infuriated Southeast Alaskans for almost six decades and concerns have again peaked with a new analysis that claims a study of runoff — that found the drainage would not affect fish — was flawed.

The mine, situated beside the Tulsequah River, the largest tributary to the Taku, one of Alaska’s premium salmon rivers, was closed by Cominco in 1957 without reclamation or clean-up of acid mine drainage.

The mine was bought by Redfern Corp. but numerous government warnings and reclamation orders were ignored and Redfern filed for bankruptcy in 2009. The mine was then bought in 2010 by Toronto-based Chieftain Metals Inc., which accepted environmental liabilities as part of the purchase price.

Hopes that the drainage problems would be addressed were short-lived and an interim water treatment plant that operated for only six months was closed in June 2012 because of costs and technical issues.

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