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First Nation disappointed by BC’s opposition to contamination investigation

“What was disappointing was that the conversation continued even though I was still under the impression that the federal government was trying to move forward with the reference[to the International Joint Commission].” Kathryn, Chairman of the Ktunaxa Nation Council Mr. Teneese

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The Kutunaxa First Nation of southeastern BC believed it had succeeded in getting Canada to participate in a joint cross-border federal investigation of selenium contamination from coal mining in Elk Valley.

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However, a series of communications between BC and Ottawa released in October under Kutunaxa’s Freedom of Information request showed that the state was pressuring Ottawa behind the scenes not to participate in the cross-border panel. They were disappointed when they learned that

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“What is disappointing is that these conversations continued despite the impression that the federal government was still trying to move forward with the reference to (International Joint Committee).”

The International Joint Commission is an impartial Canadian-US body established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Convention to investigate and, in some cases, resolve transboundary water quality disputes.

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The Kutunaxa, along with their U.S. counterparts in Montana’s Salish Confederacy and Kootenay, have been campaigning for a decade to establish a panel to address selenium pollution from coal mining on the Canadian side of the border.

Rivers flowing out of Canada carry selenium to the Kookanusa Lake Reservoir on the Montana side of the border, then into rivers in Idaho and across the border back to BC.

The effort garnered support from the state of Montana and the U.S. Department of State, and emails within a heavily redacted FOI document indicated by February that Canada was cooperating on a possible reference to the International Joint Committee. is showing.

However, these communications do not mention such references, including an April 14 letter to Foreign Secretary Melanie Jolie, which states that “there are other, more efficient ways to address concerns about selenium.” clarifies BC’s opposition to

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In April, Global Affairs Canada told Kutunaksa that it would not pursue a reference to the International Joint Commission.

The state claims it doesn’t need a commission because it already works directly with Montana on cross-border water issues.

BC Energy and Mines Minister Bruce Ralston was not available for an interview, but his staff responded to Postmedia’s questions about the issue via email.

“We are consistent with this position and have engaged with all levels of government, including the Government of Canada, on ongoing plans in the region,” the BC said in a statement. ) and will continue to work with federal agencies in the United States and Canada.”

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However, Tenney said the involvement did not include Kutunaxa.

“We thought we had good relationships with both levels of government, and if there was an issue that concerned us, we would at least participate in the conversation as it affected us. You would have thought that you would be given the opportunity to do so,” Tenney said. .

Selenium occurs naturally in rocks and is an essential nutrient in trace amounts, but at high levels it becomes toxic to humans and toxic to wildlife.

In Elk Valley, where Teck Resources owns five large coal mines that form the basis of the local economy, selenium is washed from waste rock from mining activities.

Mining in the area dates back 120 years, but in 2021 Teck was fined $60 million.

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But Tech has also spent $1.2 billion on three water treatment plants under a water management plan aimed at reducing selenium pollution, and plans to spend $750 million over the next two years.

In a statement to Postmedia earlier this year, Teck said that selenium levels in Lake Kukanusa have been stable since 2012 and that the company “is working with the BC government and Kutunaksa to develop long-term, science-based water quality goals.” We are working on the development,” he said. ”

The company also expressed its opinion in a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from Sustainability Vice President Marsha Smith, included in the FOI release, that the panel under the International Joint Committee was the “wrong approach.” Did.

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In it, Smith said, “The commission’s mention of it as intended to encompass Canadian business and regulation poses real risks to both Canada and tech,” adding that at least the company needs It would delay the approval of large expansion projects.

Tenney said Kutunaksa is consulting lawyers on whether there are next steps with the International Joint Commission, but if the state’s efforts with Tech yield satisfactory results, they could be in trouble. will not push forward.

“Ultimately, this all comes down to our responsibility to ensure water stewardship. That’s what it’s all about,” Tenney said.

depenner@postmedia.com

twitter.com/derrickpenner


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First Nation disappointed by BC’s opposition to contamination investigation

Source link First Nation disappointed by BC’s opposition to contamination investigation

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