Senator Murkowski to President Biden: Stop funding Canadian mining until Indigenous-led protections are in place for international Alaska-British Columbia rivers

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Tlingit & Haida Applauds Sen. Murkowski's Push to Protect Alaska's Salmon & Watersheds

The Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) has put out a release, applauding Senator Lisa Murkowski for her ongoing efforts to protect Southeast Alaska’s globally significant Taku (T’aaku), Stikine (Shtax’héen) and Unuk (Joonáx̱) rivers, which continue to be threatened by Canada’s abandoned, operational and proposed gold-copper mining.    

In a September 15, 2023 letter to the United States (U.S.) President Joe Biden, Senator Murkowski expressed deep concern that the U.S. could be harming our region’s largest salmon and hooligan-producing rivers by funding Canadian mining. As Senator Murkowski articulated in her letter, President Biden has announced potential funding of Canadian “critical minerals” mines in pursuit of energy independence from China and supply chain resilience. But more than two dozen developing, operating or abandoned Canadian gold mines currently contaminate, or threaten to contaminate, the transboundary Alaska-B.C. Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers, and Tribes and Alaskans downstream continue to be denied a meaningful way to engage in the management of these shared watersheds.  
“U.S. funding of Canadian mining would counter a decade of Southeast Alaska tribes’ work to protect our traditional lands, waters, and way of life,” said Tlingit & Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson. “We need the U.S. to uphold its trust responsibility to tribes and work with us to ensure these shared rivers are permanently protected, not undermine our efforts. British Columbia is, without our consent, digging up the headwaters of the rivers that have provided our way of life since time immemorial. We thank Senator Murkowski for her leadership on this issue and for her continued defense of our wild salmon.”   
Senator Murkowski urged the U.S. to pause any financial support for Canadian mining projects until, at a minimum, two conditions are met: 1) B.C.’s abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine, which has been polluting the iconic transboundary Taku River watershed for more than 65 years, must be fully reclaimed and cleaned up and 2) a binding multi-national agreement, consistent with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, must be established for the Taku, Stikine, and Unuk Rivers. That agreement must include enforceable protections developed by the sovereign tribes and First Nations of the region.  
“Rather than providing protections, the United States is staging our traditional homelands and waters to be the sacrifice zones under the Canada–U.S. Joint Action Plan on Critical Minerals Collaboration,” said President Peterson. “Poorly regulated Canadian mining is unacceptably harming, and threatening to further harm, our waters, wild salmon, and traditional ways of life.”  
Senator Murkowski has long supported calls for elevated U.S. federal and tribal engagement with Canada and First Nations on the threats posed by Canada’s dozens of risky gold mining projects – some of which would be the largest in North America, if built as proposed – at the headwaters of international wild salmon rivers. She has ensured funding is available for baseline water quality research on the U.S. side of the colonial border and raised important concerns about the future of our sustainable resources, like wild salmon. She has also expressed the need for the U.S. federal administration to protect U.S. waters from under-regulated B.C. gold mining just across the political border. 
Here is an excerpt from the release by Tlingit and Haida:
Despite the outcry from tens of thousands of individuals, the calls for river protection from tribal and First Nation leaders, and a united, bilateral call from all eight U.S. senators representing downstream states, B.C. continues to permit massive, open-pit gold mines in the headwaters of international rivers without the consent of First Nations and tribes whose traditional territories span these landscapes. More than two dozen large-scale mines are in advanced stages of exploration, development, operation, or abandonment/contamination, along the salmon spawning and rearing habitat of the region’s largest salmon-producing rivers.
Over the course of the last two years, Tlingit & Haida, along with other Southeast Alaska tribes and regional municipalities, has adopted resolutions (EC 22-68) and joined forces with other Indigenous nations to demand a temporary pause in the permitting of new B.C. mines in the transboundary Taku, Stikine and Unuk watersheds until a formal consultation process is in place for impacted tribes, and there is a permanent ban on earthen mine tailings dams upstream from communities and sensitive salmon habitat. 
For more than a decade, Tlingit & Haida has requested the United States take action under the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, in which Canada agreed that “waters flowing across the [U.S.-Canadian] boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.” 
The U.S. Department of State has the authority under the treaty to pursue protections by referring a boundary waters matter to the International Joint Commission (IJC) for thorough review, and to create Indigenous-led International Watershed Boards to begin the much-needed process to improve the multi-national governance of shared resources. Senator Murkowski referenced, and recommended, these solutions in her letter to President Biden, and Tlingit & Haida applauds her leadership.