Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett meets Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski in Anchorage Nov. 6. With a Republican majority

B.C. seeks to calm mining worries in Alaska

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett meets with tourism and fishing industries in wake of Mount Polley dam failure

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett hopes for a closer relationship with Alaska after speaking to a mining conference in Anchorage and meeting one of the new power players in U.S. resource policy.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski is expected to take over next year as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee after her Republican Party won a majority in the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 midterm elections. Murkowski plans to work for senate approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline to the U.S. Gulf Coast that has been held up by the former Democrat majority.

Bennett’s trip was mainly to reassure Alaska’s fishing and tourism industries about environmental controls for six proposed mines in northwest B.C. watersheds that drain to the Alaska coast. Those projects are on Alaska’s political map after the Aug. 1 tailings dam failure at Mount Polley copper-gold mine near Williams Lake.

“We talked about Mount Polley, we talked about the mining industry generally in Alaska and B.C.,” Bennett said after his meeting with Murkowski. “We talked about the current interaction between Alaska and B.C. on mining projects like the KSM project.”

Seabridge Gold received a B.C. environmental assessment certificate in July to develop KSM, four ore bodies near Stewart and the Alaska border that contain gold, copper, silver and molybdenum. Seabridge is looking for a major mining company as a financial partner for what would be one of the biggest metal mines in B.C.

Bennett proposed a joint management agreement between B.C. and Alaska similar to one with Montana for coal mining and environmental protection of the Flathead and Kootenay Rivers that flow south of the border. The agreement would include protocols for upstream industrial development.

Other mine proposals Alaska is watching are the Red Chris copper-gold project near Dease Lake, the Galore Creek, Schaft Creek and Brucejack gold properties north of Stewart, and Kitsault Mine, a molybdenum deposit near Alice Arm northeast of Prince Rupert that operated from 1967 to 1982.