Urge E.P.A. to protect salmon and stop a similar mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska

TULALIP, Wash. – Forecasts of a bountiful sockeye season opener for the Treaty Tribes of Washington have been overshadowed by news of a mining disaster several hundred miles up the Fraser River in British Columbia.  The Mount Polley gold and copper mine discharged 10 million cubic meters of water and 4.5 million cubic meters of toxic debris into the Quesnel and Cariboo River waterways after a tailings pond dam was breached.  The discharge is equivalent to 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  While it is too early to understand the long-term impacts this will have on the sockeye salmon fishery in B.C. and Western Washington the fact remains the Coast Salish depend on these runs for subsistence fishing, cultural, and commercial uses and are deeply concerned about how this will affect the fish and habitat.

This disaster comes as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meets in Alaska for public hearings on the proposed plan to dig the Pebble mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.  Similar to the Mount Polley mine, Pebble is also characterized by a copper porphyry deposit, and a large open pit, with a modern tailings dam design, and is located at the headwaters of a great fishery.  Bristol Bay is home to the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world.  The Pebble Mine, proposed as the largest mine in all of North America, would be far bigger than Mount Polley, and is strongly opposed by Alaska Natives, commercial fishermen and many others. The Pebble Limited Partnership repeatedly claims that large-scale mining and fish can coexist and points to the Fraser River as a prime example.

The Tulalip and Swinomish Tribes and the Coast Salish Gathering stand together on both sides of the U.S. - Canada border to urge the E.P.A. to take heed of the Mount Polley disaster, and finalize mining restrictions on the Pebble Mine plan in Bristol Bay, the most productive salmon fishery in the world.

“Today I am out on the waters of our beautiful Salish Sea and I am saddened by the news that once again our ancestral lands and waters, and the homeland of our great sockeye, have been compromised.  The Coast Salish will suffer along with the sockeye.  We face potentially devastating impacts to our culture, economy, and the health of our Coast Salish communities,” said Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Tribe and president of the National Congress of the American Indian.  “We must work together with the federal and state agencies, and speak up for our natural resources, to ensure future generations will know the unique quality of life only the Salish Sea can offer.”

“The fact we could be facing years of impacts to our sockeye fishery because of the Mount Polley mining spill is unsettling to the many fisherman and tribal families who subsist on these runs for their livelihoods,” said Herman Williams Sr., Chairman of the Tulalip Tribes.  “It is imperative that we also consider the cultural importance of this salmon to the Coast Salish people throughout the Fraser River watershed.  We must prevent mining operations from discharging toxic waste into the waterways of our precious salmon whether in Washington, Alaska, or British Columbia.”

At a time when the Washington Treaty Tribes are fighting to stop increased coal trains and the construction of coal terminals in Washington state, in addition to stopping addition vessel traffic from clogging the waters of Puget Sound, the Mount Polley mining disaster is just one more example of the importance for the responsible regulation for our natural resources.

The Coast Salish communities, whose homelands are the shorelines and waters of the Salish Sea, from the white caps of the waters to the white caps of the mountains and beyond, reach out to all those who call the Salish Sea their home to mourn with us for the loss of the sockeye and their home. 

About the Tulalip Tribes

The Tulalip Tribes are the successors in interest to the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and Skykomish tribes and other tribes and bands signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott.  The 22,000-acre Tulalip Indian Reservation is located north of Seattle, Washington.  The Tribe maintains extensive environmental preservation and restoration programs, both on and off the Reservation, to protect the region’s natural resources: marine waters, tidelands, fresh water rivers and lakes, wetlands, and forests.  The governing body is the seven-member Tulalip Board of Directors.  For more information, visitwww.tulaliptribes-nsn.gov.

About the Swinomish Tribe

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is a federally-recognized Indian Tribe. Its 10,000 acre reservation is located on Fidalgo Island in Washington State.  For more information, visit http://www.swinomish.org/

About the Coast Salish Gathering

The Coast Salish Gathering is made up of the Coast Salish on both sides of the U.S. - Canada border.  Please contact Debra Lekanof with questions about CSG (360)391.5296 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.