British Columbia mine chief’s visit includes tribes, critics

Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, center, holds a press conference in May with B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett and Environment Minister Mary Polak. Bennett and other officials visit Southeast Alaska Aug. 24-27.(Photo courtesy B.C. government)
Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, center, holds a press conference in May with B.C. Mines Minister Bill Bennett and Environment Minister Mary Polak. Bennett and other officials visit Southeast Alaska Aug. 24-27.(Photo courtesy B.C. government)

British Columbia officials travel to Southeast Alaska Aug. 24-27 to discuss concerns about transboundary mines.

B.C. Minister of Mines Bill Bennett and Deputy Minister of the Environment Wes Shoemaker will lead the seven-person delegation. They’ll spend four days in Juneau and Ketchikan.

Meetings with state officials are being led by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who chairs the state’s transboundary mine working group. B.C. officials will also meet with tribal, industry, legislative and conservation leaders.

Mine critics are gearing up for the chance to confront Bennett and others about regulations and permits they consider lax.

Heather Hardcastle of Salmon Beyond Borders says the mines could pollute rivers that flow into Alaska and threaten valuable fisheries.

“I do think this issue of upstream development means that we’re taking on the risks and receiving no benefits. It’s uniting all of us on this side to come up with a better relationship with Canada,” she says.

British Columbia officials will also meet with the Southeast Conference, a regional development group, and the Alaska Miners Association.

Association Executive Director Deantha Crockett says she understands critics’ concerns. But she says B.C. mines could be good for Alaskans.

“There’s a lot of contracting that happens with a mining project, a lot of associated trickle-down jobs that happen with the mining projects that we could very well have a part in,” she says.

The itinerary also includes the Greens Creek Mine, near Juneau, which stores waste rock dry, rather than under water behind a dam. Some officials will also travel up the transboundary Taku River to B.C. and Alaska fisheries field camps.

Environmentalists also plan a rally on the Capitol steps at noon Wednesday to share concerns from around the region. The group Inside Passage Waterkeeper collected hundreds of rubber boots to present to the governor as part of its campaign.

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