Sulphurets Creek, which drains naturally occurring rusty water from the KSM mine prospect, enters the Unuk River upstream from Southeast Alaska. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News – Juneau)
The Canadian province of British Columbia says it’s moving forward to adopting the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The upshot is it could give First Nation tribes more say over mining and other resource industries.
The declaration requires “free, prior, and informed consent” from Native groups regarding any land use projects on traditional lands. Legislation in B.C.’s parliament supported by the premier has been introduced with support from both tribes and industries.
Tis Peterman leads the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission, which represents 15 local tribes concerned about downstream impacts from B.C. mining. She hopes B.C. would also take the interests of Alaska Natives into account.
“This declaration is worldwide, it’s international,” Peterman says. “I believe they have to consider the rights of the people living at the mouths of these watersheds.”
She says Alaska should take note and adopt the same set of standards giving Alaska Natives more say over projects on their traditional lands.
Environmentalists in Alaska say it’ll be important to see how the provincial government interprets the UN’s declaration if it passes parliament. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council’s Meredith Trainor says the UN declaration has some teeth to it.
“Does that mean they’ll get a decision making role regarding whether this or that mine does or doesn’t open. That’s a really big deal,” she says.
A statement from British Columbia’s provincial government says the declaration would not affect existing permits. The announcement was also welcomed by representatives of B.C.’s mining sector and other business groups.
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