Mining and the Law; 'Children of a Common Mother'
Last updated 3/25/2007 at Noon
Inscribed on the Peace Arch over the international border near Blaine, Wash., are the words, "Children of a Common Mother." I have long felt that Canadians are just like Americans, except that they are just a little bit different. When it comes to mining in Alaska, we all owe our Canadian siblings a great debt of gratitude, because over the past two decades they have spent well over $800 million in our state on exploration alone, seeking to develop our vast mineral potential.
Many mineral properties also stretch along the Canadian side of the world's longest unguarded border. Some of them have fared badly at the hands of American Luddites Organized Against Everything. The Windy Craggy project, for instance, fell to the pressure of the proponents of the Tatshenshini-Alsek World Heritage Site, killing an $8.5 billion (1993 dollars) opportunity and eliminating the hope for as many as 2,500 regional jobs.
For decades, the folks in Juneau have been throwing eggs at the Tulsequah Chief project, just up the Taku River, forcing the proponents of that project to consider everything from roads to Atlin to access by hovercraft. Instead of supporting this economically attractive project, the Antis do their level best to chase the producers away. Galore Creek, on the Stikine upstream from Wrangell, is faring somewhat better, but that has to be driving Those-Who-Produce-Nothing nuts.
From ANWR to Hyder, there are numerous opportunities for resource development, but there always seems to be a senseless, costly fight before the direct payroll and associated multiplier factors can find their way into the economy. These problems, of course, are not limited to Alaska and the adjacent provinces.
Canadian coal field faces development fight
Recently, a stink has emerged over the development of a property in one of Canada's largest coal fields. Coal has been recovered from the Crowsnest region of eastern British Columbia since 1887. Cline Mining Corp. has proposed building a new mine near the headwaters of Foisey Creek. However, late in February, at the behest of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Edward Alex Lee, director of the Office of Canadian Affairs for the U.S. Department of State, sent a letter to Canadian officials, claiming "significant adverse environmental effects may occur in the United States," should the mine go forward.
The concern with Cline's Lodgepole Project is that bad stuff might leak from a mine that might be built there, and that the bad stuff might find its way into Foisey Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Flathead River, and that it might adversely impact the trout in that river which forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park, 25 miles to the south.
I have fished the North Fork. Personally, I do not want a single gill on a single trout harmed by anyone (other than me, of course, frying it over an open fire). On the other hand, I know that Canada has laws that regulate mining and prohibit pollution. What's more, the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 provides that waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side. In other words, the law and modern technology join together to ensure that should Cline Mining succeed in permitting a mine to recover something on the order of 40 million tons of coal, it will not be at liberty to impact the fish of the Flathead.
The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated by law as the world's first International Peace Park in 1932. It protects and preserves over 2,000 lovely square miles of the trans-border Rockies. The fair inference from this latest blast from Those-Who-Think-Electricity-Comes-From-A-Hole-In-The-Wall is that 2,000 square miles just isn't enough. Now they want to reach out beyond what was agreed to when the parks were created. Is there no end?