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NEWS RELEASE · 15th November 2011
Rivers Without Borders
SCIENTISTS WARN B.C. MINING RUSH WOULD HARM ALASKA AND B.C. SALMON, CLEAN WATER

Northwest Transmission Line could spur multiple new mines, dams and coal-bed methane projects in pristine region known for world-class salmon, scenery and wildlife


Download maps of current and current and proposed development in the region.

In a letter to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark today, 36 scientists asked for her leadership to balance impending industrial development in northwest B.C. with the outstanding fish, wildlife and ecological values of this largely pristine region.

Of particular concern are the impacts to clean water and salmon runs in B.C. and southeast Alaska. Spurred by BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line (NTL), which has received environmental approvals, the rush is on to build mines, river-diversion hydroelectric dams and coal-bed methane energy projects that could radically transform the region.

“The consequences for salmon runs on both sides of the border could be devastating, yet Alaskans would see none of the economic benefit and have no seat at the table,” said Mike Fay PhD, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who lives along the U.S. portion of the Unuk River just downstream of the B.C. border.

Among the well-documented impacts of mining is acid rock drainage, a chemical chain reaction created when discarded rock and tailings are exposed to air and water.

The process can go on for decades at both operating and abandoned mines. Just one of the proposed mines, the Kerr - Sulphurets - Mitchell mine in the Unuk River watershed, is expected to produce at least 2.1 billion tons of waste rock and tailings over its lifetime.

The B.C. government has failed to stop 50 years of acid mine drainage from the idle Tulsequah Chief Mine into the Taku, southeast Alaska’s most productive salmon river.

“Northwest B.C. is home to pristine, free-flowing rivers that provide some of the last, best habitat for salmon in North America,” said Jack Stanford PhD, of the University of Montana. “Unfortunately, we don’t yet have the baseline scientific understanding needed to balance ecosystem health with impending industrial development.”

The lack of science is accompanied by a failure of the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office to ensure energy and mining companies follow through on environmental commitments. According to a recent report by the independent Auditor General of British Columbia, “adequate monitoring and enforcement of certified projects is not occurring and follow-up evaluations are not being conducted.”

Furthermore, the B.C. government currently does not have an adequate process in place to assess the cumulative impacts of the multiple industrial projects planned for the transboundary region.

“Without an assessment of the cumulative impacts of this wave of new mining and energy proposals, the British Columbia government could unwittingly sacrifice some of the best salmon and wildlife habitat left in North America,” said Jim Pojar PhD, who spent 25 years with the B.C. Forest Service and is a member of the Association of Professional Biology of B.C.

The southern part of the B.C.-Alaska transboundary region is home to species of concern such as grizzly bear and wolverine, as well as caribou, mountain goat, and Stone’s sheep. The largely pristine Stikine, Iskut and Unuk rivers are home to runs of all five species of Pacific salmon, which support subsistence fishing and commercial fishing jobs in both B.C. and Alaska.

The scientists’ letter reads:

“The scale and intensity of proposed development certainly will fragment the watersheds with roads, transmission lines, river diversion projects, and open pit mines.

Habitat for salmon and other wildlife will be destroyed at the development sites. Cumulative impacts likely will cascade throughout the watersheds in the form of altered flow and temperature patterns, disturbance to wildlife interacting with roads, and reduced water quality associated with sedimentation and acid mine drainage.”

Water quality, salmon habitat, and salmon populations on both sides of the border are at risk. Currently no organization or government has addressed the huge scope of ecological and social issues at stake. “Before further development is approved,” reads the scientist’s letter, “British Columbia must initiate a comprehensive assessment of potential cumulative impacts arising from the multiple development proposals in the watersheds.”

Nearly a dozen large mining projects are proposed for the transboundary watersheds in B.C., including the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell mine on a tributary of the Unuk River; Galore Creek and Shaft Creek mines on tributaries of the Stikine River; and the Red Chris mine at the headwater lakes of the Iskut River.

A 195 megawatt river diversion hydroelectric project is under construction on the Iskut River, and numerous other hydroelectric projects are proposed for the region.

In addition, Royal Dutch Shell has proposed to develop coal-bed methane at the headwaters of the Stikine River.

Dr. Jim Pojar has extensive professional experience in applied conservation biology, forest ecology, sustainable forest management, ecological land classification, and conservation, with a wealth of field experience throughout British Columbia. He is a leading expert in climate action planning in British Columbia. Dr. Pojar can be reached at: 250-847-9429, email: jpojar,,,telus.net

Dr. Mike Fay works as a biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society and is an Explorer in Residence for National Geographic. He is a renowned conservationist who has brought international attention to pristine and threatened landscapes in Gabon, Congo, and the Pacific Coast of North America. A resident of the Unuk River in Alaska, he lives directly downstream from planned development in British Columbia. Dr. Fay can be reached at: 907-254-1902, email: mfay,,,uuplus.net. His website documenting development in the region is: www.unukriverpost.org

Dr. Jack A. Stanford is the Jessie M. Bierman Professor of Ecology and Director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station at The University of Montana. He has conducted research and education in systems ecology for 35 years with focus on rivers and fisheries including pristine Pacific salmon river ecosystems around the Pacific Rim. Dr. Stanford can be reached at: Jack.stanford,,,umontana.edu

Another Map

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Me?
Comment by Janice P. Robinson on 18th November 2011
I wondered if I should answer the Question about Ron Bartlett's ethnicity. It is an issue, apparently. My family's geneology chart is well-documented (Haisla and Tsimshian Robinsons), and well-used in all this regional economic development.....yet, we are the most reviled and disrespected among the 1 % of Indians around here. We go to school and earn our money. I want everybody to know! The Royal Tsimshian and Haisla decendants of George Robinson have paid a dear price for all Alcan-related ventures too, and are currently surviving yet another economic tsunami. Aluminum destroyed the whole Indian economy of B.C. and destroyed our family, and brought shame to us here. No more Kitamaat grease, and here comes Enbridge along the grease trail now.

I think Ron Bartlett is Danish, although someone told me they thought he might be Swedish. He avoids me like the plague.

I am Tsimshian-Canadian.

Isn't Ron Bartlett Haisla?
Comment by Nancy on 15th November 2011
I agree that every council, whoever they may be should be held accountable. On a reserve it is difficult, you may be a member, but from a different reserve and/or nation, not through hereditary lineage. Where do we draw the line? I do not want a Haisla speaking for me on my reserve as a Tsimshian. However, I do believe that everyone should vote and be part of their community, wherever they are.

We had better get it together because industry is coming and we are going to be left with no pristine wilderness left.
Lets be clear about Merv
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 15th November 2011
Straight from Merv. I am not against industry or mining. I am a Journeyman Heavy Duty Mechanic and made my living working in the coal mines of BC, Quintette and Fording.

I am most certainly against irresponsible mining and the unnecessary destruction of habitat.

I am for the powerline as it helps everyone. I am against the Coalbed methane plans in the Headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers.

Don't paint Merv Ritchie as an anti industrial development person because this is just false.

All great economies of the world are derived from raw mineral resource extraction and the service industries to them.

We have many gifts here in the Northwest. Every single one of them can co-exist!

It simply takes perspective and considered consultation on all sides. Some projects are easy goes and others are not. In my humble opinion. And yes, democracy wins. But real democracy, not the dictatorships generally practiced today.

Tsimshian Elders.
Comment by Janice P. Robinson on 15th November 2011
My Tsimshian Elders would never use profanity when speaking with anyone. I know some older ones on every reserve still smoke, swear and drink, and dream of signing treaties...not my Elders. I do not know who the previous speaker speaks for, however it is not Waap Gitxon (Eagle, Kitsumkalum).

Also, at a previous community meeting at Kitsumkalum Hall, Ron Bartlett tore a strip off the band council....saying that if he ran his business like the Kitsumkalum Band Council, he would go broke! He wondered where all the money was going. We had our elections, and nobody has addressed Mr. Bartlett's concern to this day.

At the last treaty meeting I attended at Kitsumkalum Hall, Alec Bolton basically informed the community that whether we sign the treaty or not......will make no difference in how things are run. "Continuity" is a catch-phrase to listen for. Well, all of us who do not mind the status quo will gladly step up to your trough to rubber stamp the treaty that Sophie Pierre, Gerald Wesley, et al have prepared for us.

We all know that there is nothing Tsimshian about the words: Kalum, robin, medicine wheel, trapline, filets of beaver tenderloin, ventures, or f*#ck. It is a good thing I can only speak for my house. Every Tsimshian House speaks for itself, and the vote on this so-called "treaty," will be a secret ballot (I heard). I put my trust and my love in the Tsimshian Nation, on this matter. Why wah!

Whii Nea ach.
Democracy?
Comment by Mr. Peters on 15th November 2011
Even if Merv is mayor, what happens if the majority what this development? Remember in a democracy it is the majority that rule, in a dictatorship it is the rule of one.
No
Comment by Adawk Deemtx on 15th November 2011
The Kitsumkalum Elders back in the day. Told the miners to f #%$#% off. Because they will destroy Kitsumkalum Territory. They would hide any signs of nuggets, or lead them a stray. To protect our water sheds. Plus if Merv Ritchie Wins Mayor. We will have a democracy in Terrace BC.
This will all be silenced...
Comment by james on 15th November 2011
This will all be silenced when the Monopoly man shows up with his Bags Full of Money.