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Mining in the Transboundary Region

MABC’s members strongly support the BC Government's efforts to protect transboundary watersheds through strict regulation and responsible mining. Through practising responsible mining, environmental stewardship, and working closely with neighbouring Alaskan communities and tribes, BC's mining sector is supporting the long-term health of our shared transboundary waters.

Protecting our Shared Watersheds

Protecting transboundary water quality is a responsibility shared by the governments of British Columbia and neighbouring U.S. states, and our respective natural resource industries.

Under the BC-Alaska Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Statement of Cooperation, BC and Alaska are committed to enhancing and preserving our shared rivers, watersheds and fisheries. This commitment led to the creation of the Technical Working Group on Monitoring, tasked with collecting and analyzing transboundary water quality data.

The working group’s comprehensive report found that:

  • Water samples collected downstream from the BC-Alaska border have consistently met Alaska water quality standards.
  • Aquatic conditions in the Taku, Stikine and Unuk transboundary rivers support and sustain aquatic life.

Existing and Proposed Mines in British Columbia/Alaska Transboundary Region

Credit: Government of BC

Working with Alaskans

BC’s mining industry is committed to proactively engaging with Alaskan tribes and U.S. Federal and State agencies to understand and address their concerns. Stakeholder engagement is led by BC’s Environmental Assessment Office, which elicits input and feedback from Alaskan Tribes and stakeholders for any mining project undergoing the environmental assessment process within the transboundary region.

For example, during the environmental assessment of the KSM Project, Seabridge Gold regularly engaged with U.S. Federal and State agencies and Alaskan tribes to understand and address their concerns. In response to extensive engagement with stakeholders, including Alaskan Tribes, Seabridge Gold made substantial adjustments to their water management approach.

Credit: BC EAO

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Responsible Mining Regulations in BC

The mining industry in BC is committed to responsible resource development.

BC mines are governed by robust, science-driven laws and regulations that are reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure they align with global best practices. MABC fully supports these regulatory standards, which are backstopped by strict sanctions for non-compliance.

In recent years, the BC government has introduced significant reforms to modernize and strengthen mining laws and regulations, including:

British Columbia’s mining sector now meets some of the most rigorous global standards governing environmental assessment, operational permitting, enforcement, and post-closure reclamation and monitoring.

Mine Closure and Reclamation

BC’s mining industry operates under robust bonding requirements that ensure financial responsibility for mine closure, reclamation, and environmental protection. The Major Mines Reclamation Security Policy (interim) introduced by the BC government in 2022 represents a significant step forward in fostering responsible mining practices. The interim policy:

  • Mandates comprehensive liability cost estimates that encompass conventional reclamation activities (such as re-sloping and re-vegetation) while emphasizing water treatment.
  • Encourages proactive reclamation practices, emphasizing the importance of restoration work throughout the mine’s life cycle in areas where mining activity no longer takes place.
  • Ensures sufficient funds are available for the environmental restoration process associated with mine closure without burdening the taxpayer.

BC’s new reclamation security policy mandates substantial bonding requirements for major mines that surpass those of most other global jurisdictions. Since 2015, BC mining companies have significantly increased the reclamation security amount held by the provincial government by over $2.7 billion, bringing the total to over $3.7 billion. We expect to close the gap between the estimated reclamation liability and reclamation security within two years. These robust bonding requirements backstop the government’s commitment to environmental protection, responsible mining practices and community well-being.

An example of the BC mining industry’s commitment to responsible development is the remediation Seabridge Gold is voluntarily undertaking at the former Johnny Mountain Mine, an abandoned underground mine situated on the Iskut River, upstream from the BC – Alaska border. Seabridge Gold has been working in cooperation with the Tahltan Nation for the past seven years to thoroughly remediate and close this mine and bring the site back to its pre-mining condition.

Stronger Regulations for Tailings Storage Facilities

Undoubtedly, the Mount Polley incident affected the local community, First Nations, the mining industry, and the entire province. It also served as a catalyst for substantial legislative and regulatory changes to the laws governing Tailings Storage Facilities (TSFs). These changes include the implementation of new design and operational criteria using the best available technology, the requirement for mines to employ Engineers of Record and establish Independent Tailings Review Boards to certify TSF safety on an ongoing basis. The industry wholeheartedly supports these measures and continually strives for improvement.

In 2021, the Province’s independent Chief Auditor of Mines took a significant step to ensure the safety and effectiveness of TSFs in British Columbia. The Chief Auditor conducted an audit that examined the Ministry’s regulatory framework for TSFs, industry’s compliance with the regulations, the Ministry’s enforcement activities and regulatory requirements and best practices for TSFs in major mining jurisdictions worldwide. The audit confirmed the Province’s TSF regulations are aligned with established best practices and are among the best in the world, with a high level of industry compliance.

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Collaborative and Mutually Beneficial Partnerships with First Nations Communities

In the transboundary region and throughout British Columbia, First Nations participation and partnership are required to pursue a mine development project or to operate a mine. The operational mines and advance exploration projects within the transboundary region stand as good examples of respectful collaboration and mutually beneficial relationships with local Indigenous Nations.

In 2019, the Government of British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by passing the Declaration Act. Under the Act, the Tahltan Central Government and the Government of British Columbia have entered into several consent-based decision-making agreements. These historic agreements govern the environmental assessments of mine developments in Tahltan territory, much of which is in the transboundary region. These agreements exemplify British Columbia’s steadfast commitment to reconciliation and active partnerships with First Nations in mine development projects, ensuring the decisions are made in a shared, consent-based manner.

BC’s mining sector has also been instrumental in driving economic reconciliation with Indigenous partners and communities, as evidenced by the numerous Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs), partnerships, and other collaborative endeavours including the Treaty Creek Limited Partnership between Tahltan and Nisga’a Nations aimed at optimizing Indigenous participation and maximizing economic benefits at Seabridge Gold’s the KSM Project located in the Alaska-BC Transboundary region.

Credit: Seabridge Gold – IBA with Tahltan Nation for KSM Project

To delve deeper into these meaningful efforts, we invite you to explore our Supporting Indigenous Reconciliation page for more information.