Alaska to have bigger voice in transboundary mine permitting

Alaska and British Columbia on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding giving the state a larger role in transboundary mine permitting decisions.

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Acidic drainage from the Tulsequah Chief Mine, discolors a containment pond next to the Tulsequah River in British Columbia in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Chris Miller/Trout Unlimited)
Acidic drainage from the Tulsequah Chief Mine, discolors a containment pond next to the Tulsequah River in British Columbia in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Chris Miller/Trout Unlimited)

Gov. Bill Walker and B.C. Premier Christy Clark signed the document during a teleconference. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and B.C. Mining Minister Bill Bennett oversaw its development.

Bennet says it’s a framework covering permitting, water testing, transportation and other transboundary issues.

“It signifies and formalizes our commitment, Alaska and B.C’s commitment, to work more closely together, to put more effort into that collaboration and to work on further agreements between the jurisdictions that will allow us to put in some detail exactly what that additional collaboration looks like.”

He says the other agreements should be completed early next year.

Walker issued a statement saying the memorandum could also boost economic development on both sides of the border. That includes improved transportation links and tourism promotion.

Mine critics in Alaska have said such an agreement has no teeth.

The document specifically says it imposes no legally binding obligation that could be enforced in court.

Bennett and Mallott say such provisions can only be part of a treaty between the federal governments of both nations.

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Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska - Juneau
Ed Schoenfeld is Regional News Director for CoastAlaska, a consortium of public radio stations in Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, Petersburg and Wrangell. He primarily covers Southeast Alaska regional topics, including the state ferry system, transboundary mining, the Tongass National Forest and Native corporations and issues. He has also worked as a manager, editor and reporter for the Juneau Empire newspaper and Juneau public radio station KTOO. He’s also reported for commercial station KINY in Juneau and public stations KPFA in Berkley, WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and WUHY in Philadelphia. He’s lived in Alaska since 1979 and is a contributor to Alaska Public Radio Network newscasts, the Northwest (Public Radio) News Network and National Native News. He is a board member of the Alaska Press Club. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he lives in Douglas.