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.