Gov. Mike Dunleavy has pledged to engage with British Columbia to protect Alaska’s natural resources and environment. That’s in response to lawmakers’ concern over potential threats from transboundary mining.
Lawmakers across party lines penned a letter last month urging the Dunleavy administration to keep a close eye on Canadian mines in shared watersheds.
Twenty-two legislators signed the letter urging the governor and lieutenant governor to pick up where the Walker administration left off.
This month they got an answer. A two-page letter signed by the governor catalogued high-level contacts between state and provincial officials. He called it “important work” to remain engaged over transboundary rivers.
“They said in the letter that they were going to continue with the process, so I was heartened by that,” said Ketchikan independent Rep. Dan Ortiz. “But it was not quite as energetic as I would have liked to seen.”
There was no specific mention of mining in the governor’s letter. Lawmakers had raised concerns over the roughly dozen B.C. mines that are permitted, operating or lie abandoned in shared watersheds with Southeast Alaska.
Last year Gov. Walker had urged B.C. to require mine operators post reclamation bonds before work starts. That’s in line with Alaska regulations designed to ensure mining companies can afford to pay for clean up later. It’s also insurance toward catastrophes.
Environmental and fishing groups on both sides of the border have been pushing B.C. reform its mining regulations for years.
Jill Weitz is with Salmon Beyond Borders in Juneau.
“There’s a need for financial assurances, essentially liability and accountability, to be placed on the B.C. mining industry for impacts to our shared water,” said Jill Weitz with Salmon Beyond Borders in Juneau. “As opposed to the communities of Southeast Alaska having to pay the burden of those impacts from their mining practices.”
Gov. Dunleavy’s letter didn’t get into specifics. But it said a teleconference between his cabinet and B.C. ministers is planned for June 18.