My Turn: Waiting to hear from Parnell on transboundary mines

In response to Wednesday’s article, “Sens Begich, Murkowski call for action on transboundary mines,” I too see a huge threat from these mines to our sustainable way of life in Southeast Alaska. The Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach two weeks ago demonstrates the possibility of what could happen to any one of our precious rivers given that the proposed mines on the Unuk and Stikine are much, much larger than Mount Polley. It is not a matter of if these waste dams will fail, it is only a matter of when they will fail.

I am left wondering, “Where is the state of Alaska on this?” The owner of the massive proposed open-pit KSM Mine on the Unuk and Nass rivers has stated that all the concerns from Alaska have been met. The lead agency for Alaska, the Department of Natural Resources, was involved in the Advisory Group process for more than a year, reviewing the 35,000-plus page environmental assessment. DNR’s written comments are fewer than two pages long. Is this an adequate level of engagement on these mines to protect our people and communities?

The fact is that Alaska does not even have the most basic data on current water quality in these transboundary rivers. Alaska does not have the data to even tell if these mines are having an impact on our rivers, before it is too late.

Too late being dead fish.

There are no plans to even monitor the rivers downstream of the mines once they are built. Alaska agencies need to work with the tribes on these rivers to gather good, defensible data so that we can detect changes before it is too late.

Many groups in the state have spoken out on this issue. This has been documented in the Empire.

One voice, however, has been silent; our governor.

The state of Alaska, under this governor, supports the Pebble Project that, if built, would lead to massive destruction to Bristol Bay salmon in exchange for jobs.

These mines in British Columbia will not benefit anyone in Alaska.

We need leadership to protect our way of life here in Southeast Alaska. The state needs to be more engaged to uphold its responsibilities to its citizens. This should start at the governor’s office.

• Rob Sanderson is the second vice-president for the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, as well as the co-chairman of the Unified Tribal Transboundary Mining Workgroup.

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