A new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has revealed that a “vital ecological and cultural area” in the northernmost parts of North America is “facing escalating pressure” from mining operations.  

The transboundary watershed region, an area covering south-east Alaska and the north-west of Canada’s BC province linked by large salmon rivers, have been revealed by the EIA to be home to “a web-like network of more than 450 Canadian companies” staking mining claims.

The report also alleges that the network these companies form “shares attributes with a Ponzi scheme”, piling heavy criticism on the Prospect Generator Model (PGM), a financial model reliant on multiple companies raising investor funds to develop multiple mining claims in the hope that one will become profitable. In its report, the EIA states that: “Within the PGM, there is a network of companies with no actual revenue paying themselves with investor money and dangling the possibility of a large return as the primary selling point.” 

The EIA states that more than 80% of the mining claims by these companies are within 5km of a river or stream, with 18% being found on top of glaciers, raising environmental concerns, particularly for wild salmon populations in the area. 

This report is not the first time concerns have been raised about mining in the region. In a letter dated 15 September 2023, Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski asked US President Joe Biden “not to allocate any US funding to Canadian projects in the transboundary watershed in general, and to withhold all US support for [mining] projects within Canada” in order to “support the request of Alaska Tribes, municipalities, business owners, and residents to establish a robust international framework that strengthens governance while preventing and resolving disputes over the use of shared waters”.

In recent weeks, action has been taken against mining operations to protect wild salmon populations in Alaska. On 9 January 2024, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal against the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to prohibit construction of the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, citing risks to the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon population.

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By GlobalData