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Mine proposal near U.S.-Canadian border raises concerns on both sides

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Adrian Florez

A proposed exploratory mine near the U.S.-Canadian border is raising concerns in both countries. The development involves a major salmon producing river for Puget Sound.

The proposed mine is between Manning and Skagit Valley provincial parks.

Vancouver, B.C.-based Imperial Metals is asking the British Columbia government permission to explore for copper and gold in the area, known as the “donut hole.” The five-year permit involves building infrastructure and water treatment facilities for drill cuttings.

A stream near the area feeds into the Skagit River, which itself is a major source of salmon for Puget Sound. The area also is known as a home to endangered grizzly bears and spotted owls.

An international coalition that involves more than 100 environmentalists, wildlife groups, politicians and First Nations has launched an advertising campaign in opposition to the proposal.

The Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission was setup in 1984, when Seattle City Light canceled the High Ross Dam, which would have flooded part of the valley. In return, British Columbia agreed to sell power to Seattle. The commission is in negotiation with Imperial Metals to buy their mining claims for this area.

Several political leaders — including U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, Sen. Patty Murray, Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan — also have expressed opposition. 

Imperial Metals is the owner of a dam that ruptured at Mount Polley in 2014.  It sent more than 6 billon gallons of mining waste materials into Quesnel Lake. Reports late last month revealed that a joint task force has recommended charges in the matter to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.