Southeast tribal groups met with officials from the Department of State and the Environmental Protection Agency last week in Juneau and Ketchikan to discuss ongoing issues with Canadian mining projects on Southeast Alaska watersheds.
The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska called for the meetings to address concerns over Canadian mines diverting potentially-toxic water to Southeast Alaska rivers. So-called “transboundary” mines are proposed on the Stikine, Taku, Alsek and Unuk River watersheds.
“What we’re trying to do is elevate our concerns and make sure they’re heard at the appropriate levels,” Central Council president Robert Peterson said in a Tuesday phone interview with the Empire. “We’re not against mining, what we’re concerned about are the mining practices that are proposed. … We’re concerned that all measures are taken and we want to ensure that our voices are heard.”
The meetings focused on preventing harm to Southeast Alaska water quality and salmon habitat. The Central Council asked the EPA to help locate funds for baseline studies on water quality in Southeast Alaska; the studies would be necessary to establish whether Canada’s mines are affecting Alaska’s water quality.
Peterson said they did not ask for “new money” but a “shift in funding to prioritize baseline water quality studies.” “They are not going to walk away making promises, but I felt they were very responsive in regards to our needs, especially the EPA,” Peterson said. “This is an ongoing process but I hope they come back with some funding identified.”
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