Environmental advocates in Hope are thrilled with news that the Silverdaisy watershed will be free from mining activity.
The provincial government announced Jan. 19 that Imperial Metals Corp. is relinquishing all mining and related rights in the nearly 58-square-kilometre area known as the Skagit River Donut Hole.
“Hope Mountain Centre (HMC) is thrilled to hear this news,” said the group’s executive director, Kristine Krynitzki. “It is a monumental step towards the preservation and protection of the environment in the Upper Skagit watershed.
“Located on the unceded Indigenous lands of the Upper Skagit, Stó:lō, Syilx and Nlaka’pamux peoples, the Donut Hole is home to a rich cultural history, and is sensitive ecological habitat for many threatened and endangered species like the grizzly bear and spotted owl.”
Krynitzki credited strong advocacy for making this happen, led by the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission. (SEEC).
“Their many decades of advocacy, research, and partnerships, and excellent leadership on this issue in particular, ultimately led to this decision,” she noted. “This historic news is a wonderful testament to the power of advocacy and people working together to achieve great things.”
The HMC and the SEEC worked together on annual water quality testing and wildlife species observation.
While Krynitzki said the Skagit River remains “largely pristine,” data collected by the two groups suggests the old Silverdaisy mine site that was developed in the 1920s continues to leech heavy metals into the river.
“That is creating a measurable decline in aquatic insect abundance in the tributary stream closest to the mine site,” Krynitzki said.
A copper mine that was proposed for the area, a large-scale operation that would have seen a large tailings pond draining into the Skagit watershed. Had that project gone ahead, Kzynitzki said the potential impact on the Skagit and its aquatic ecosystems “could have been catastrophic.”
The answer to what happens now is, for the moment, nothing, and in this case that could be a very good thing.
A provincial government press release suggested “consultation on the future use and protection of land within the Silverdaisy watershed will follow.”
“We’re hoping that first and foremost, the environment is protected as much as reasonably possible, while also providing regulated access for outdoor recreation,” Krynitzki said. “Building a love of the outdoors is key to inspiring people to be stewards of the environment, and improves the physical and mental health of people and communities.”