Mines Minister Bill Bennett says political leaders from Alaska are welcome to visit the Mount Polley environmental disaster site in central British Columbia and also tour other mines in the province’s northwest.
Alaska’s Lt.-Gov. Byron Mallott and a second delegation of First Nations leaders from the state, as well commercial and sports fishing groups and conservation organizations will visit Mount Polley later this week.
Last summer’s tailings pond breach at the open pit gold and copper mine spilled millions of litres of tailings waste into lakes, rivers and creeks, prompting concerns from Alaska about B.C.’s mining practices and regulations.
The Red Chris gold and copper open pit mine in the northwest is located near a watershed that flows downstream to Alaska, and a similar catastrophe could threaten the state’s salmon-fishing industry.
Vancouver-based Imperial Metals operates Mount Polley and Red Chris, which was granted an interim operating permit three months ago.
NDP mining critic Norm Macdonald says the tailings pond disaster at Mount Polley last summer damaged BC’s reputation, and the Clark government must show it is no longer business as usual.
“Of course they’re welcome, they’re our partners, as I said we share interests in protecting watersheds that originate in British Columbia and come through to Alaska.”
Bennett says he’s meeting with Mallott in Victoria, and the lieutenant-governor is also scheduled to attend BC Mining Week activities in Vancouver.
-With files from the Canadian Press