Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott says British Columbia officials seem “sincere” about protecting transboundary rivers near provincial mines.
Many Alaskans are concerned about potential damage to Unuk, Stikine and Taku river fisheries if the mines release toxic materials. All start in B.C. and enter the ocean along the Southeast coast.
Mallott said the tone turned somber when they discussed the Mount Polley Mine, where a large dam collapsed last August, sending silt and mud into nearby waterways.
“They were very serious about learning from the incident. They have made at least a ministerial … commitment that that type of accident will never occur again,” he said in a cellphone call from the Victoria, B.C., airport.
Mallott visits the Mount Polley area this week as he meets with government officials, industry representatives and tribal leaders.
He said he talked with the mining and environment ministers about information collected in watersheds before mining starts. That can be compared to later data to measure pollution.
In B.C., that information is often gathered by mining companies.
“We talked a little bit about whether some of that data should be obtained by the respective governments themselves,” he said.
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker earlier this year designated Mallott to lead an internal transboundary waters working group. It includes commissioners of the Departments of Environmental Conservation, Fish and Game, and Natural Resources.
Mallott also said B.C. Mining Minister Bill Bennett accepted an invitation to visit Southeast Alaska. Bennett promised a visit earlier this year, but it hasn’t happened.
A delegation of Southeast Alaska tribal and environmental activists are also in British Columbia for what’s called Mining Week. Some will cross paths with the lieutenant governor.
- The Togiak herring fishery opened Sunday morning with a windy start. More than 30 mph gusts posed a challenge for fishermen during the state’s largest sac roe herring fishery.
- Alaska's unemployment rate remained at 7.3 percent for the third straight month in March. Federal labor statistics show that's the highest the unemployment rate has been in the state since early 2012.
- Starting May 1, passengers will need a signed affidavit that the animal they're flying with is trained to behave in public and that the owner accepts liability for its actions.
- A Sitka bear sanctuary is getting ready to unveil its new black bear enclosure when it opens for the tourist season.