Quantcast

Canada as Ugly Neighbor: Mines in BC Would Devastate Alaskan Tribes

Popular
The Stikine River runs through Wrangell, Alaska. Mining operations nearby threaten to poison fish in the Stikine watershed and destroy the traditions and livelihoods of Southeast Alaskan Tribes. Alaska Department of Fish and Game

By Ramin Pejan

Mining operations in Canada are threatening to destroy the way of life of Southeast Alaskan Tribes who were never consulted about the mines by the governments of Canada or British Columbia.


The Tribes have depended for millennia upon the pristine watersheds of the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers. These waters flow through varied and wild landscapes from British Columbia through Alaska and are teeming with salmon and eulachon.

The mines–two of which are operating and four that are proposed–endanger downstream fish populations through the release of toxic mine waste and acidic waters. Fish are fundamental to the Tribes' cultural practices and livelihoods, making the pollution a violation of the Tribes' human rights to culture and an adequate means of subsistence.

Earthjustice submitted a petition this week on behalf of the Tribes against Canada. The petition asks the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights to step in to protect and uphold the Tribes' human rights.

"Salmon is the staple harvest in our traditional culture. You could say it is the heartbeat of our culture. If the salmon heartbeat is gone then ours will be gone too," said Tammi Meissner of the Wrangell Cooperative Association, one of the 15 sovereign Tribal nations involved in the petition. Collectively, the Tribes make up the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission or SEITC.

Fishing with their elders initiates younger generations into their Tribes' traditions and culture.

Sharing fish catches with elders and others in and outside of the community maintains and strengthens tribal and communal culture and relationships.

Harvests of salmon and eulachon also represent a critical source of food and economic livelihood that sustain these tribal communities throughout the year. It is common for families to eat wild fish five to six times a week.

Tribal members harvest sockeye salmon near the Unuk River.Carrie Dodson / SEITC

"Our freezer is 90 percent wild fish and game, and, beyond our own consumption, we share with our extended family and the elders in our community," said Britany Kee' ya aa.Lindley, also a member of the Wrangell Cooperative Association. "As a couple with three daughters, subsistence harvests helped my parents be able to put their earnings towards home ownership and supporting their children in all of our endeavors."

Unfortunately, the British Columbia mines threaten the fish at the center of community life.

British Columbia has a history of poor enforcement and regulation of mines that has led to long-term and ongoing pollution from old mining sites, including several catastrophic disasters in which dams containing toxic mine waste burst, contaminating downstream rivers. For example, in August 2014, a dam failure in British Columbia released several million cubic meters of toxic waste into nearby lakes and rivers.

Despite the threats these mines pose, neither Canada nor British Columbia has consulted with or sought the consent of southeast Alaska Tribes during the approval or permitting of any of the BC Mines, as required by international law.

The proposed KSM Mine is located in the upper Unuk River watershed. Mike Fay

This history and violation of international law led the SEITC to file Wednesday's petition to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, a tribunal created by the Organization of American States.

The petition alleges that, by failing to effectively regulate and prevent the threats from the mines, Canada is violating the Tribes' rights to enjoy the benefits of their culture, an adequate means of subsistence, health, and to use and enjoy the lands they have traditionally occupied.

The petition also requests that Canada consult with and seek the consent of SEITC and its members in accordance with their customs and traditions—and in line with international law.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less