This newspaper in the past year has questioned Canada’s mining standards, including if they exist. In light of the August 2014 failure of the Mount Polley Mine tailings dam that sent billions of gallons of toxic tailings and contaminated water into Southeast Alaska waters, there is ample reason to be concerned.
But there’s also reason to be hopeful, however, that Southeast residents’ concerns are being listened to across the border.
The recent decision by Canadian officials to send Pacific Booker Minerals, Inc., back to the drawing board to reassess its plans for the Morrison Mine, a proposed open pit copper and gold mine in the Skeena River watershed, is a promising sign for those concerned with environmental consequences down stream.
Pacific Booker Minerals was denied an Environmental Assessment certificate not once but twice, as Empire reporter Mary Catherine Martin wrote in an article published in today’s Outdoors section. The second came after the mining company sued and the BC Supreme Court asked the country’s Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Energy and Mines to reconsider its 2012 denial.
In the debate over transboundary mining, those against mines along Southeast watersheds, which range from environmentalists to fishermen and tribal organizations, often talk of Canadian mining regulators as being little more than rubber stampers willing to approve any project despite the downstream risk. This newspaper has said essentially the same, but the decision now to delay permitting of the Morrison Mine should not be overlooked or down played.
To deny mining outright is not only unfair but unpractical. Alaska would never allow another country to make that decision for us. Responsible mining and more stringent oversight is reasonable, and that appears to be the case for denying the Morrison Mine at this time.
“… Given the nature of the materials before us and the values at stake, we find that the information before us does not provide us with a sufficient level of confidence that Morrison’s design can sufficiently protect the environment,” said a July 7 decision signed by Minister of Environment Mary Polak and Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.
What most Southeast Alaskans have asked for is more stringent review before permitting and work is allowed to begin, not that Canada forsake all mines along the border forever. There certainly is a higher risk to transboundary mines, and as such there should be additional factors weighed during permitting and when considering tailings storage facilities. That’s happening as we speak with the Morrison Mine.
Those opposing transboundary mines say the slowed approach isn’t good enough, but it’s worth waiting to see what happens next before casting judgement. Even if Canada’s mining standards don’t match our own, there’s proof now standards do exist. How high they are is still yet to be decided, but it’s a hopeful sign nonetheless that Alaskans are being heard.
— Juneau Empire,