Senators: We must protect flathead from effects of mining
Baucus, Tester Ask Sec. of State and Interior Secretary to Help Negotiate Safeguards with Canada
(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today sent letters urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to immediately join them in pushing Canada towards an agreement that will protect the outdoor heritage and economy of the North Fork of the Flathead, which is threatened by a Canadian mining company’s recent discovery of a gold deposit just north of the area.
“The location of this mining is alarming — the distance from the southern boundary to Glacier National Park and the United States boundary is less than 10 miles downstream,” Baucus and Tester wrote to Clinton. “This type of development in such close proximity to the Flathead River and the U.S. boundary poses a serious risk of irrevocable harm to the pristine resources of the basin.”
Baucus and Tester stressed that this week’s news of Max Resource Corporation finding high-grade gold in the area only exacerbates the threat of active mining in the North Fork of the Flathead and the impending disastrous effects on the pristine ecosystem that already faces significant ecological risk due to the impacts of climate change.
In a similar letter sent to Secretary Salazar, Baucus and Tester thanked Salazar for touring the North Fork during his August visit to Montana and stressed the need to engage Canada in a bi-lateral discussion to find a mutual approach to eliminate this immediate threat and to establish long-term protections for the North Fork of the Flathead.
In August, Baucus contacted Clinton warning that without an international long term agreement, Montana and British Columbia “will be continually faced with the potential loss of this pristine ecosystem,” due to irreversible damage caused by logging and mining. Baucus also wrote a letter to Canada’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, urging him to encourage Canada’s leaders to protect the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and the Flathead Valley areas as well.
Tester raised the issue of possible mining in the Flathead Basin with the U.S. Ambassador to Canada during a meeting this summer.
Text of Letter:
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We are writing to you regarding the North Fork of the Flathead River and the dire need to protect our pristine natural resources in this region from the risks posed by mining and energy development north of the U.S. – Canadian border. Since the International Joint Commission found in 1985 that a proposed open pit coal mine in Canada should not proceed due to its impact on compliance with Article 4, the non-degradation standard, of the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, the region has been threatened on a regular basis by proposed mining. Each proposal has been met with stiff opposition. Until we are able to reach agreement with Canada on a long-term solution to this issue, we will be continually faced with the potential loss of this pristine ecosystem.
We are currently faced with yet another proposal for mining development in the North Fork of the Flathead. The August expansion of the gold exploration area by Max Resource Corporation brought the area of active exploration in the Flathead Valley to 29 square miles. The location of this mining is alarming — the distance from the southern boundary to Glacier National Park and the United States boundary is less than 10 miles downstream. This type of development in such close proximity to the Flathead River and the U.S. boundary poses a serious risk of irrevocable harm to the pristine resources of the basin. This is virtually the same location where the IJC found that a proposed open pit coal mine in Canada would violate Article 4 of the Boundary Waters Treaty.
Today, we are writing with the news that Max Resource Corporation announced that some of these locations are rich in gold. This discovery brings us one step closer to what we have avoided for 30 years – active mining in the North Fork of the Flathead that could cause irreparable harm to this pristine ecosystem that already faces significant ecological risk due to the impacts of climate change.
We are writing to reiterate the request in August 2009 that you engage Canada in bi-lateral discussions to establish permanent protections for the Flathead, and that you request that Canada conduct a full, Federal environmental assessment of these mining activities before they continue. The protection of the Flathead has been a 30 year effort. It is time to begin the next chapter in our efforts to protect this pristine ecosystem, and we need your leadership to help make this happen.