Red Chris mine has begun operation near the Iskut River in northwest B.C.

B.C. seeks mining agreement with Alaska

Northwest B.C. mine projects on major salmon rivers that flow into the Alaska panhandle

B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett is spending this week in Alaska, his second trip this year to work out a formal agreement on mine regulation between the state and the province.

Bennett has meetings lined up with Alaska conservation groups, state legislators, commercial fishing representatives and Alaska Governor Bill Walker. With major mine projects proposed on both sides of the border and continued public concern in the wake of last year’s Mount Polley tailings dam collapse near Quesnel, Bennett is hoping to have an agreement ready for Walker and Premier Christy Clark to sign later this year.

Several B.C. mine projects have opened or received permits to proceed this year in northwest B.C., where salmon-bearing river systems extend across the Alaska panhandle to the Pacific Ocean.

Two of those mines are just north of Stewart B.C. and Hyder, Alaska near the Unuk River, which flows into Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Brucejack Mine is an underground project expected to proceed with construction this year. Its tailings are to be returned to the mine shaft, reducing concern about environmental impact.

Near Brucejack is the KSM Mine, one of the largest copper and gold ore deposits in the world. It was given B.C. permits last year for a design that includes open pits and a pair of tunnels to carry ore 23 km away for processing.

Bennett plans to fly into the Taku River region, where B.C. has issued permits for the Tulsequah Chief mine south of Atlin. It also plans a tailings storage site to restart mining on two ore deposits that were previously mined in the 1950s.

“We’re going to meet with dozens of different interests and people, do a lot of listening, but also make sure that Alaskans become a bit more aware of how much access their government has to our processes in B.C.,” Bennett said.

The Alaska government participated in the approvals for KSM and others, but many state residents aren’t aware of that, he said.

Many Alaskans are aware of the Mount Polley situation, where recovery work continues a year after millions of tonnes of mine waste poured into Quesnel Lake. Testing of water and aquatic life continues and the water continues to meet Canadian drinking water standards.

“It’s going to take years to have any long-term certainty on this, but so far it would seem that there hasn’t been a negative impact on aquatic organisms that we know of today, or on humans,” Bennett said.

An engineering review of all operating tailings dams at B.C. mines was ordered after the Mount Polley investigation found a glacial material layer that was undetected led to the dam failure in early August 2014.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Grand Forks and Boundary cancellations, changes due to COVID-19

This newspaper’s list of community events, institutions that change or cancel due to pandemic

Painting birdhouses in lieu of boredom

Elementary school student finds new hobby for entertainment while away from school

Boundary hospital ‘ready for a surge,’ hoping it never comes

The emergency department director confirmed there were active COVID-19 cases in the Boundary

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

B.C. VIEWS: Pandemic shows need for adequate care home staffing

Seniors in B.C. care homes face challenging times

QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Take this test and find out how well you know Canada’s most popular winter sport

Most Read