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How two mining stories in B.C. have panned out

In this week’s newsletter, we take a look at the province rejecting a coal mine and a flip-flopping neighbour across the border

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What a difference two years and a new governor makes.

In 2020, Montana adopted strict pollution limits for selenium — which can cause deformities and reproductive problems in fish at high levels — downstream of a B.C. mining giant’s coal operations. 

Then, this past fall, the state flip-flopped: Montana’s environmental review board voted to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove the standard — and they let the very company responsible for water pollution pen the petition.

That company? Teck Resources, which in 2021 was fined a record $60 million for selenium pollution stemming from its mines in the Elk Valley. (Teck says it’s in favour of water standards, but contends Montana’s rules aren’t supported by “real-world data.”)

Mining reporter Francesca Fionda has all the details in this piece, including the politics of an environmental board now dominated by appointees of Montana’s Republican governor.

Meanwhile, biodiversity reporter Ainslie Cruickshank — who once travelled the route of Teck’s transboundary pollution for this big Narwhal feature — has a story this week on a mining project that won’t happen.

The Sukunka mine in northeast B.C. could have driven the endangered Quintette caribou herd to extinction, while infringing on First Nations rights. And so, the provincial government rejected the project. That might seem like the obvious decision to make, but let’s just say this is rare for B.C., which has some pretty, pretty, pretty outdated mining laws.

This development — or, lack thereof — has some environmental advocates wondering if this signals a course-correction for B.C.; the province is working on a nature agreement with the federal government that is expected to include new protections for endangered species.

And while the province considers changes to its gold rush-era mining laws, First Nations aren’t waiting: they’re gearing up for a B.C. Supreme Court hearing to overhaul an “unconstitutional” system that lets companies stake a claim with a few clicks and no Indigenous consent. 

Take care and don’t do 180s in flip-flops,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience
 
Mamalilikulla IPCA celebration three women in red and black regalia stand in front of the ocean and take a selfie, surrounded by mud, mist and rain

The Narwhal is hiring!


Big news: we’re hiring an editor to ramp up our coverage of Indigenous-led conservation!

As a loyal Narwhal reader, you know we’re pretty big on covering the work Indigenous Peoples are doing to lead conservation and stewardship within their territories. Still, our reporting can do more to explain the scope and significance of these growing efforts. It also hasn’t been led by an Indigenous editor — and that’s something we’re eager to change. 

We’re looking for an editor who gets excited about reporting on solutions, not just problems, and who feels passionate about the power of journalism to bridge divides.

Maybe that’s you? Or maybe you know someone who’d be a great fit? Please spread the word! The deadline to apply is Jan. 26, and we’re accepting applications from candidates who are First Nations, Métis or Inuit. Go here to learn more and apply!

 
The Narwhal's Ontario reporters Fatima Syed and Emma McIntosh with Andrew Chang, the host of CBC's About That. Text box in the middle reads:  "The OG The Ontario Greenbelt"

About the OG (2023)


For what feels like ages, Ontario reporters Emma McIntosh and Fatima Syed kept calling the province’s coveted Greenbelt “the OG” … to no luck.

Well, this week, it appears that the lingo finally caught on as the duo took a field trip to various parts of the protected area with CBC’s Andrew Chang on his show About That. 

Premier Doug Ford’s recent land swap — which might not be environmentally sound — has become a hot button issue as the province faces a housing crisis. To explain Bill 23, Emma and Fatima hit the road to visit plots recently bought by wealthy developers and “hallowed grounds” that have long been sites of development battles.   

Watch the episode here! And if you’re more of an audiophile, go listen to Emma’s appearance on The Big Story podcast, where she weighs in on the latest Greenbelt news, including a possible investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police.

 

This week in The Narwhal

Car stopped on the side of the road with driver's had pointing out and feeding a deer.
Despite the storybook pictures, Thunder Bay’s deer feeding ritual isn’t pretty
By Lindsay Campbell and Chris McEvoy
People won’t stop feeding the whitetail deer of Mission Island on Lake Superior, despite a decade-old bylaw — and the risks of collisions, contact and sugary foods.

READ MORE
 
An overhead view of BC Hydro Site C dam construction along the Peace River.
BC Hydro, Site C dam contractor charged after acid rock drainage flows into Peace River
By Sarah Cox
READ MORE

 
Sm’ooygit Nees Hiwaas (Matthew Hill)
First Nations’ legal challenge could completely change mining exploration in B.C.
By Francesca Fionda
READ MORE
 

What we’re reading

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When you want to work at The Narwhal but your friends don’t know what a narwhal is. Sigh — just tell them to sign up for the newsletter instead!
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Investigating problems. Exploring solutions
The Narwhal’s reporters are telling environment stories you won’t read about anywhere else. Stay in the loop by signing up for a weekly dose of independent journalism.