Washington, D.C. – The Biden administration should strongly advocate for Canada to address mining pollution that poses a significant danger to Alaskan communities, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
Poor regulation and diplomatic stonewalling from Canadian officials is allowing British Columbia to issue permits to several dangerous large-scale gold mines at the headwaters of four transboundary rivers that flow into Alaska, under the guise of critical mineral mining.
Much of this mining activity is within the watersheds of the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk-Nass rivers that flow from Canada’s boreal forest into Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, a bastion of ecosystem resilience for the state’s salmon fisheries. The dams used to capture and retain the toxic mine waste associated with gold mining are prone to leakage and collapse, putting southeast Alaska communities, Tribes, and ecosystems at serious risk.
The report calls on the Biden administration to use diplomacy to strongly encourage Canada to work collaboratively with the United States to request an investigation by the International Joint Commission (IJC), a forum created to help the United States and Canada work out cross-border waterway issues, and to support the needs of affected Tribes in the area. The IJC will be meeting next week, and it is likely that the issue of transboundary mining will be discussed.
The report also urges the Biden administration to call on Canada and the British Columbia provincial government to pause new mine permitting and development in the Alaska-British Columbia transboundary region until the IJC begins working with local Tribes, First Nations, and other communities on both sides of the border.
Under the IJC’s guidance, British Columbia mines should be fully bonded for all estimated liabilities as a condition of permitting to ensure that enough funds are on hand for remediation in the event of leakage or a catastrophic structural failure.
Read the report: “U.S. Diplomacy Can Prevent Canadian Transboundary Mining Pollution on the Northern Border” by Michael Freeman
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