British Columbia Mine Plans Pose Concerns For Southwest Alaska Fisheries

An environmental watchdog group says that a mining boom
underway in northwest British Columbia could threaten fishing and tourism jobs
and the unique way of life in Southweast Alaska.
Presenters at the Western Mining Action Network’s biennial
conference in Anchorage May 9-11 included Chris Zimmer, campaign director for
Alaska Rivers Without Borders, who described the mining plans as a “triple
whammy” for the fish, water and people of the transboundary region. The
problem, said Zimmer, is the mining boom comes with a weakened Canadian
permitting process and environmental safeguards, and a lack of engagement on
those concerns by both the state of Alaska and the federal government.
While more than a dozen industrial mines are currently
engaged in permitting or advanced exploration in areas of British Columbia
bordering on southeast Alaska, those of major concern are the
Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell, or KSM gold and copper mine project, and the
Tulsequah Chief mine project.
The KSM mine lies 20 miles from the Alaska border, near the
headwaters of the Unuk River, and just upstream from Misty Fjords National
Monument. Seabridge Gold in Toronto has proposed to construct three open pits
and an underground mine, a project that Zimmer said would require dams the size
of Hoover Dam to contain some 2.5 billion tons of tailings in perpetuity. There
is potential, Zimmer said, for significant acid mine drainage.

Toronto-based Chieftain Metals, meanwhile, hopes to reopen
the Tulsequah Chief mine, an underground mine upstream of its confluence with
the Taku River, which flows into Southeast Alaska. There is already ongoing
acid mine drainage pollution and the mine is opposed by the Taku River Tlingit
First Nation, he said, and the high potential for other pollution of the Taku,
Stikine/Islet, Unuk and Nass watersheds from these mines poses harm to
commercial, sport and personal use fisheries.