VICTORIA and JUNEAU – Premier Christy Clark of British Columbia and governor Bill Walker of Alaska have signed an agreement aimed at the environmental protection of rivers, watersheds and fisheries that run through both jurisdictions on Nov. 25.
The agreement calls for the creation of a bilateral working group to monitor water quality and ensure the information is publically available. A framework is also set out allowing governments and scientists from either side of the border to be involved in the other’s assessment and permitting processes for proposed mines.
The tailings pond collapse at the Mount Polley copper-gold mine in August 2014 provided a large impetus to co-ordinate cross-border environmental efforts. Although that spill did not affect Alaskan waters, several other new Canadian mines are planned near the border.
The agreement is lauded by the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AMEBC.ca) president and CEO Gavin C. Dirom said, “The interests of all Alaskans and British Columbians are best served by discussing matters such as mine development and environmental stewardship regionally and locally, rather than in a national or international context. The agreement builds on the role that province and state officials already have in being mutually involved, where appropriate and efficient, in respective environmental assessments and permitting processes.”
Alaskan environmental groups say the deal does not go far enough. They favour legally binding federal agreements between the United States and Canada.