British Columbia Mines: A Ticking Time Bomb Threatening Transboundary Watersheds, Fish, Wildlife, Downstream Communities, Tribes

Report Highlights Disastrous Impacts of Mine Expansion and Urgent Action Needed to Avert Irreparable Harms to Environment and Public Safety

SEATTLE — At least a dozen mines and mining exploration projects are situated in the headwaters of rivers that flow from British Columbia into Washington state, Alaska, Idaho and Montana representing a ticking time bomb threatening the environmental and public safety according to a new report. “U.S. Pressure Builds for B.C. to Address Upstream Mine Threats – A Timeline” underscores the threats of the planned construction and expansion of these massive mines in B.C., urging action from U.S. lawmakers as Indigenous communities and citizens in shared border states come under increasing threat. 

“This report presents the growing momentum calling for action over the past few years. What it can’t do is count down the weeks remaining until an inevitable disaster at some British Columbia mine does irreparable harm to an American river and the communities and resources it sustains,” said Mitch Friedman, executive director of Conservation Northwest. “We need our political leaders to increase pressure on the B.C. government to fix this time bomb, before it’s too late.”

The report, issued by 10 U.S. conservation groups, provides an illustrative timeline of growing U.S. frustration in the face of B.C.’s intransigence and shows how pressure for change has ramped up in the past few years.

Over the last two decades, U.S. lawmakers, Indigenous governments, downstream communities, and conservationists have watched with growing alarm the development of mega mines in B.C., many of which are situated near the American border. U.S. governors, Members of Congress, and Tribes have repeatedly appealed to the B.C. government and the Canadian federal government to stop or limit the impacts of B.C. mines near transboundary watersheds.

“Canada and the United States share a commitment to the health and safety of our communities and the environment, and accelerating mine development in transboundary watersheds is a betrayal of this responsibility, as well as a clear violation of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty,” said Les Welsh, director of conservation partnerships for the Pacific region, National Wildlife Federation.

Concerns have now reached an unprecedented level as mine development in B.C. escalates - and with mine construction comes increased risk to watersheds shared with the U.S., especially from tailings storage facilities.

"Idahoans will pay dearly, and possibly perpetually, if we continue with business as usual and by letting Canada neglect its upstream mines. Our leaders must engage B.C. officials before it is too late,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation

Watch this video for more information about the threat these mines pose to U.S. watersheds.


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