Mines minister trying to regain Alaska’s confidence in B.C.

Mines minister trying to regain Alaska’s confidence in B.C.

Alaskans are growing uneasy over a series of mines proposed or nearing end of construction in British Columbia.

British Columbia's Energy Minister Bill Bennett is in Alaska in an effort to regain the state’s confidence in B.C.'s mining industry, which has weakened since the Mount Polley mine disaster.

Bennett, Canadian Press reports, believes many Alaskans perceive the province’s resource sector as a threat to their environment and salmon fishery.

Right after the breach, as The Tyee(*) reported, local media drew similarities between the Canadian mine leak and the tailings dams that could one day be part of some of the projects proposed close to the watersheds common to Alaska and B.C. —the Unuk, Taku and he Stikine.

"All of a sudden we have now a potential issue with Alaska given that many of these (mine) projects are located in B.C. watersheds that ultimately flow into Alaska watersheds," Bennett told CP.

The first of these planned mines would a copper and gold project —Red Chris— by Mount Polley-owner Imperial Metals (TSX:III) in northwest B.C. The almost completed mine is located near the Iskut River, a major tributary of the Stikine River, which ends in southeast Alaska and it is considered one of the largest salmon habitats in the Tongass National Forest.

Mines minister trying to regain Alaska’s confidence in B.C.

British Columbia's Energy Minister Bill Bennett.

Alaskans did grow anxious and the state asked the Canadian government for greater involvement in the approval and regulation of Red Chris, scheduled to open later this year.

Another object of Alaskans animosity has been the $5.3 billion Kerr-Suphurets-Mitchell (KSM) project, owned by Seabridge Gold Inc. (TSX:SEA). They claim the project, already approved in B.C., could generate two billion tons of waste rock. This would require tailings storage in the Nass River drainage and waste rock dumps in the Unuk watershed.

Minister Bennett is scheduled to give a presentation Wednesday at the mining convention on the B.C. government's response to the tailings failure at Mount Polley.

(*) Note: The original version of this article failed to refer to The Tyee as one the sources used for background research. We apologize and make note this story has been updated to reflect that, with the corresponding link to the piece by freelancer Christopher Pollon.