Alaskans will meet with British Columbia’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, when he visits Juneau next week and will ask him to support an international review of mine developments in northwest British Columbia, upstream from Southeast Alaska along the Taku, Stikine and Unuk transboundary rivers.
Some Alaska fishing and environmental groups believe an international review is the best way to develop specific, binding commitments to ensure clean water, salmon, jobs and traditional and customary practices are not harmed by British Columbia mines and that adequate financial assurances are in place up front to cover long-term monitoring and compensation for damages.
In a press release issued by members of Salmon Beyond Borders, the Alaska Trollers Association, the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, and others, Bennett is described as having a “trust us--we’ll take care of it” attitude that they mind unacceptable.
“We are far more careful in British Columbia than it would seem to many people in Southeast Alaska,” Bennett was quoted as saying in an Alaska Dispatch News article last month. “I’m not offended by that. People of Southeast Alaska don’t know a lot about how we do business in British Columbia"
For some Alaskans, a promise is not enough.
“It’s great that Minister Bennett is coming to Southeast Alaska, but I want him to recognize this is an international problem requiring an international solution under the Boundary Waters Treaty. Alaska is not merely another participant in British Columbia’s domestic permitting process, but is instead the downstream sovereign state entitled to protections under the Treaty. We don’t need more information and talk. We need enforceable measures and financial guarantees to protect our interests,” said Heather Hardcastle, a commercial fisherman from Juneau who coordinates Salmon Beyond Borders, a campaign driven by a large and diverse group of Americans and Canadians.
Bennett is expected to arrive in Juneau on Monday, August 24, and spend four days in Alaska’s capital city, meeting with Alaska state officials, tribal leaders, fishermen and others.
Alaskans are calling on Secretary of State John Kerry, who is coming to Alaska later to attend a climate change summit in Anchorage on Aug. 31., to take action under the Boundary Waters Treaty, a bilateral treaty between the United States and Canada that bars either country from polluting shared waters, and convene the international review.
“At a bare minimum, British Columbia should be willing to grant us the same protections and rights it is asking of Alberta. Accepting anything less than a binding international agreement that includes a mechanism that guarantees financial compensation and security for Alaskans would be too little, too soon,” said Chris Zimmer, Alaska director of Rivers Without Borders.