The Anacortes City Council formally opposed on Monday the proposed expansion of minerals exploration in the Skagit Headwaters in British Columbia.
Approval was expected; the City Council discussed the matter on March 22 and directed staff to prepare a resolution and a letter to British Columbia provincial officials.
The city joins other cities, counties, tribal governments and Gov. Jay Inslee in opposing the application by Imperial Metals Corp. for a five-year exploratory mining permit in the Cascades in southwest British Columbia, where the Skagit River originates.
The Skagit River flows from British Columbia’s Allison Pass to the Salish Sea, draining 1.7 million acres on its 150 miles course. It is habitat for numerous land and aquatic species and a source of water for thousands of people. The City of Anacortes, a regional water provider, draws and treats water from the Skagit River and distributes it to more than 65,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Skagit and Island counties.
In the resolution and letter, the city says the risks posed by mining are too great. “The City is very concerned about the heavy metals and acidic water that could be released by mining effluent, which could introduce arsenic, copper, lead, aluminum, mercury, and other toxins into our water supply,” the city states. “The City’s concern is heightened by the fact that Imperial Metals Corporation was responsible for a catastrophic failure in 2014 when its Mount Polley Mine tailings pond collapsed, spilling 25 billion liters of contaminated materials into drinking water and salmon habitat.”
The city adds, “If this project is allowed to move forward and contaminates the Skagit River, the City will have to cease operation of its water treatment plant and find a new way to provide water to the community. This is an unacceptable risk to the lives and livelihoods of an entire region.”
In addition to denying Imperial Metals’ permit application, the city also asks that the headwaters area be incorporated into the B.C. park system to protect it from future industrial use.