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British Columbia Stakeholders Join Growing Opposition to Mining in the Skagit Headwaters

Posted on Jul 29, 2021 in Conservation News, Skagit Headwaters, WA Wild Blog

Photo courtesy of the Wilderness Committee

Today, 39 British Columbia organizations and local businesses sent a letter to the British Columbia Ministry of Mines to express their deep concern and opposition to Imperial Metals’ proposed mining permit in the Skagit Headwaters.

The B.C. stakeholders are the latest to join an opposition list totaling over 280 entities formally opposed to the mining proposal. Read the full press release here

The letter calls on the B.C. government to deny the proposed permit citing threats to conservation, recreation, and ecological values in the province. 

“After almost a century of blasting, drilling and tunneling to find a workable mine with no luck whatsoever, it’s time for British Columbia to extinguish Imperial Metals’ mineral tenure in the Skagit Headwaters Donut Hole and then, with First Nations, protect the place,” said Joe Foy, Protected Areas Campaigner, Wilderness Committee.

Photo courtesy of the Wilderness Committee

Lush forests and clean clear water found in the Skagit Headwaters support a staggering diversity of fish and wildlife, including chinook salmon, rainbow trout, and grizzly bears. The wilderness habitats are a necessary component in recovery efforts for B.C.’s North Cascade grizzly bear population. Over 200 species of birds have been documented in the Skagit Headwaters area and nearby Manning ad Skagit Provincial Parks, including the endangered northern spotted owl.

“Clean rivers and headwaters that provide intact fish habitat are a scarce resource and should be fiercely protected for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts,” said Matt Jennings, Executive Director, B.C. Fishing Tourism Association. “We cannot afford to allow the Skagit Headwaters to be another statistic of the natural heritage and fish habitat that we have lost to development.”

Manning and Skagit Provincial Parks in British Columbia are popular recreation destinations — located just a day trip from the greater Vancouver metro area — and draw more than a million visitors each year. The economic activity fueled by recreation supports local economies. Proposed mining threatens local businesses in B.C., as well as downstream communities.

Old mining equipment and mine waste dumped in the Skagit Headwaters Donut Hole. Photo courtesy of the Wilderness Committee.

In their letter, the 39 undersigned B.C. businesses and organizations cite concern regarding Imperial Metals track record. In 2014, the corporation was responsible for the infamous Mount Polley mine disaster, spilling over 2.6 billion gallons of toxic sludge into Quesnel Lake and the Fraser River watershed. The incident was the biggest tailings dam failure in Canadian history. To date, the company has not faced charges or accountability. 

The letter also draws attention to the 1984 High Ross Dam Treaty signed between the United States and Canadian governments to conserve and protect wilderness and wildlife habitat, enhance recreational opportunities, and acquire mineral or timber rights to facilitate long-term protection for the Skagit watershed.

Proposed mining in the Skagit Headwaters is a transboundary issue that’s bad for business, health, and conservation efforts on both sides of the border.