Donate Now! Subscribe

Positive Media Attention as Opposition to Mining in Skagit Headwaters Grows

Posted on Jun 25, 2021 in Conservation News, Skagit Headwaters, WA Wild Blog

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

Southern British Columbia has become a dangerous hotspot for toxic pollution from mines in watersheds that flow into Washington state, including the beloved Skagit River.

Currently, there is a pending request for a mining permit in the Skagit Headwaters by Imperial Metals, the company responsible for the infamous Mount Polley mine disaster of 2014, which spilled more than 24 million cubic meters of wastewater laden with arsenic, lead, selenium and copper into the Fraser River watershed, one of the biggest environmental disasters in Canadian history.

Washington Wild has been leading an international coalition of Tribes, First Nations, elected officials, conservation, recreation, and other local businesses to oppose mining. 

As the opposition has grown to over 275 entities, so has positive media attention:

  • On 6/25/2021, The Seattle Times published “Skagit mine permit: ‘Protect our quality of life’” by Richard Brocksmith, Mount Vernon City Council member, expressing concerns for downstream public health, economy, salmon runs, and drinking water for 140,000 Skagit Valley residents.

“The coalition opposes the potential giant copper mine in our headwaters and requests our governments move to permanently protect our headwaters as envisioned in the 1984 Skagit River Treaty signed by Canada and the United States.”

  • On 6/25/2021, The Seattle Times published “Skagit mine permit: Protect farms, local businesses,” by Dave Green, president and CEO of Skagit Valley Malting, illustrating how a network of hyper-regional producers are all at risk of losing their livelihoods by the pending mining permit.

“Skagit Valley farmers grow the majority of the barley that we purchase for malting. The ability to buy local grains from our neighbors allows us to make hyper regional products that breweries and distilleries across the Western United States and Canada love to use as a base for their beer and spirits. This supply chain is heavily dependent on safe and clean water from the Skagit River.” 

“Biden needs to use international diplomacy to hasten the end of the Imperial Metals proposal in British Columbia, which would directly affect Washington waters.”

“Putting [the Skagit River] resource at risk would also affect tribal treaty rights to salmon and steelhead, as well as agriculture that relies on irrigation.”

“As the largest water purveyor in Skagit County, serving potable water to more than 80,000 people from mountain streams in the Skagit River Basin, we have an obligation to protect the source of our water,” PUD General Manager George Sidhu said in a news release from the nonprofit Washington Wild, which is coordinating an international coalition against proposed copper and gold mining in a region called the “donut hole.”

“’The City of Anacortes is a regional water provider that serves over 65,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in the Skagit and Island County communities,’  the letter states. Those customers — including within Anacortes, the town of La Conner, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island — rely on Anacortes’ ability to produce about 20 million gallons of clean water each day at its Skagit River plant.”

“A large number of British Columbians support mining reform, according to a recent poll published in the fall of 2020 by the BC Mining Law Reform Network and the non-profit conservation group Northern Confluence. Eighty-one per cent of people surveyed said the province should ‘modernize land-use plans with communities and First Nations to ensure the protection of water quality and fish habitat,’ while 84 per cent said mining companies ‘should be required to get permission from private landowners, municipalities and First Nations before doing any business on their lands.'”

“The state has spent ‘hundreds of millions of dollars to fix culverts, reconnect floodplains for salmon habitat,’ is contemplating removal of a dam on the Similkameen, and ‘we can’t have mine tailings at the headwaters screwing all that up after the incredible work we’ve been doing,’ [Washington State Senator Jesse] Salomon said.”

“The opponents on both sides of the border argue that if gold exploration and, eventually, mining are permitted in the Skagit headwaters, which flow into Puget Sound in Washington state, pollution could harm local communities and the North Cascades national park.”