BC government invites meeting with SEITC on mining issues

A tribal consortium in Wrangell has been invited to meet with British Columbia officials to discuss a pause on permits, permit amendments and approval of new mining projects along salmon-rich transboundary rivers flowing into Southeast Alaska.

The invitation to the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission was extended in early June by George Heyman, British Columbia’s minister of environment and climate change strategy. SEITC is pleased to have the opportunity to work directly with the B.C. government, said Fred Olsen, executive director of SEITC.

Heyman noted that the two entities share goals in environmental protection and progress in the fight against climate change.

“B.C.’s Climate Change Accountability Act sets ambitious legislated targets for 2025, 2030, 2040 and 2050 to reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions by at least 16%, 40%, 60% and 80% below 2007 levels respectively,” Heyman told Rob Sanderson Jr. chair of SEITC, in the letter of invitation. “Our government also has a new commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.” To achieve these goals, the B.C. government developed the CleanBC plan, which establishes initial policies to move the province towards its 2030 emissions reduction targets, he said. The plan’s initiatives will help the province to use energy more efficiently and prevent waste, while making sure energy they do use continues to be the cleanest possible, he said.

Sanderson noted in an earlier letter to Heyman that a warmer climate and glacial retreat have opened more area for mining exploration. In addition, Sanderson told Heyman, climate changes have made mine water-balance difficult to model and the predictions unreliable.

Sanderson noted that the Mount Polley mine disaster in northern B.C. was partially caused by or made worse by water behind an impoundment that was never planned for in the initial design. He also noted that numerous mining projects potentially affecting Southeast Alaska communities are at various stages of exploration, development, operation and closure in the British Columbia headwaters of shared transboundary watersheds.