Alaska to Push Transboundary Issues to a Higher Level

Alaska took its concerns about the potential impact of mining near transboundary waterways to a federal level this week, while meeting with Canadian ministers of natural resources, environment and climate, fisheries and crown-indigenous relations and northern affairs in Ottawa, Ontario.

According to Alaska Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott, the goal was to directly convey concerns over the need to protect the environmental quality of transboundary rivers shared by Alaska and British Columbia, rivers where healthy salmon habitat is critical.

Mallott and Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, discussed transboundary mines, water quality and climate change issues with Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. Mallott said they also asked Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, for baseline water quality measures, financial assurances and cumulative impact assessments for transboundary watersheds impacted by mining.

Mallott noted that while he doesn’t think there will be immediate follow-up, the big change is the matter now involves the federal governments for the US and Canada.

One issue that came up during the talks is concern about the Tulsequah Chief mine, in British Columbia, where acid drainage from the idle mine continues to flow into the Tulsequah River and then the Taku River before reaching Juneau, Alaska.

Concerns over operating mines, abandoned mines and plans for new mines will come up again at federal level meetings of the two countries in April.

“We’re not saying it’s going to be resolved overnight, but now we have our own federal government engaged and motivated,” Sullivan said.

The meetings in Ottawa raised the level of awareness over transboundary river issues, Mallott said.