Stikine River • Shtax’héen

 

The Stikine River, Shtax'héen in Tlingit, or Bitter River, is known for its tremendous size and complex braided waters. It is the fastest free-flowing navigable river in North America. The Stikine | Shtax’héen drainage system is recognized as an important wilderness area with local, regional, and global ecological significance. It is a critical producer for local communities and Tribes, including nearby Wrangell and Petersburg, that rely on the river for cultural practices and food sovereignty. 

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Yet, several developing mining and energy projects in British Columbia threaten the health of the Stikine | Shtax'héen, putting the future of the salmon who spawn there, and all who rely on them, at risk. It is for this reason that in 2019, American Rivers named the Stikine | Shtax'héen one of the top ten most endangered rivers in the United States.  


REASONS FOR CONCERN:
Canada’s Galore Creek Mine jeopardizes Southeast Alaskan communities and regional economy, with no benefit to Alaska. The construction and operation of the proposed Galore Creek Mine in British Columbia, at the headwaters of the Stikine River | Shtax'héen, 37 miles from the Alaskan border, could put the health and well-being of our Southeast Alaskan communities and regional economy at risk. 

Clean water and salmon fuel Southeast Alaska’s $2 billion/year fishing and tourism economy, sustain our communities, and are integral to cultural practices. As one of the world’s largest open-pit mines, the proposed Galore Creek Mine could permanently transform the upper Stikine and Iskut Rivers. The massive scale and untested mitigation measures of the Galore Creek Mine proposal would require water treatment for at least 250 years, if not forever, to protect the Stikine | Shtax'héen, although the mine plan does not include any water treatment.

These are just some of the reasons why this proposed mine is a bad idea. Our concerns extend beyond them to include:

Acid leaching potential: This area contains a volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposit.  All sulfide mines can produce acid mine waste, but wet climates like that of the Stikine Watershed intensify the risk of acid mine drainage - toxic, acidic wastewater leaching into our watershed that impacts aquatic life and requires treatment for pertetuity.

Impacts to sacred headwaters: The Galore Creek Mine would be built in the headwaters of the Iskut and Stikine Rivers, an area known as the Sacred Headwaters by First Nations groups in Canada. It would have a significant impact on the Galore, More, Sphaler, and Scotsimpson Creeks, all tributaries to the Stikine.

Harm to salmon and those who depend on them: The Galore Creek Mega-Mine is just one of many mines planned for the Canadian headwaters of Southeast Alaska’s salmon rivers. Tribal governments, fishing groups, and Southeast Alaskan communities are coming together to demand protection of Southeast Alaskan salmon from
Canadian mines.

Release of untreated water: The Galore Creek Mine does not plan to treat water. Discharge water will flow directly into Galore Creek and the Iskut River.

Outdated environmental assessment: The mine plan was designed prior to the Mt. Polley disaster and utilizes the same technology, including the earthen tailings dam, that failed there. The Environmental Assessment has not been updated to account for the lessons learned at Mt. Polley or for Climate Change and changes to Canadian mine regulations.

Toxic lake of tailings: The tailings dam would create a lake approximately 1.6 miles long, 0.96 miles wide, and 650 feet deep. This toxic mixture would be held in place by a 900-foot-tall dam more than half a mile long, made from the tailings themselves. The company would have to maintain 53 feet of water over the tailings in perpetuity to restrict metal leaching and acid.

Boundary Waters Treaty: Any water pollution from the Galore Creek Mine could violate the Boundary Waters Treaty between Canada and the United States. The treaty states in part that “waters flowing across the boundary shall not be polluted on either side to the injury of health or property on the other.”


IT'S NOT TOO LATE: 
Many have raised their voices in opposition to the Galore Creek Mine.  Resistance is building, but greater mobilization is needed to protect the Stikine River | Shtax'héen and all who depend on it. 


LEARN MORE:
• From SEACC: Stikine River Factsheet and Galore Creek Mine Factsheet
• From the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission: www.seitc.org
• From Rivers Without Borders: http://riverswithoutborders.org/about-the-region/iskutstikine
• From American Rivers: https://endangeredrivers.americanrivers.org/stikine-river/


For further information, please contact SEACC at info@seacc.org or 907-586-6942.

 


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