Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday voted to sign on to another letter seeking protection for the rivers that flow into Southeast Alaska from the threat of mining pollution across the border.
The letter is drafted by Salmon Beyond Borders, a group organized to campaign for protections for salmon that spawn in transboundary rivers like the Stikine River near Wrangell. This letter is drafted to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and seeks “to ensure downstream interests are not permanently harmed by Canadian mining activity upstream.”
Petersburg resident Brian Lynch represents a different group, Rivers Without Borders, but encouraged the assembly to sign.
“While this is not one of our Rivers Without Borders letters, we encourage the sign on and the sending of these sort of letters to Canada to try to increase our participation in their mining industry, mining permitting and establishing financial assurances that anything goes wrong on any of these transboundary mines that we can be made hopefully be made whole or there be some sort of financial payment for any kind of damage that they cause on these rivers,” Lynch told the assembly.
The letter asks that mining companies be held liable for pollution downstream. That’s been a concern ever since the 2014 failure of a tailings dam at Mount Polley in central British Columbia. In addition, the Tulsequah Chief mine on the Taku River has been abandoned since the 1950s and continues to drain acid water into that watershed.
A representative with Salmon Beyond Borders was in Petersburg earlier this month. Petersburg’s mayor Mark Jensen said he attended an event held by the group and signed on to a banner the organization will be taking to the nation’s capital. The assembly voted 5-0 to sign onto this letter as well. Assembly members Bob Lynn and Kurt Wohlhueter were not at the meeting. The municipal government has passed similar resolutions on the issue in 2015 and 2017.