Commissioners Oppose Mining Permit in Skagit River Headwaters

Posted Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Skagit PUD Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing an exploratory mining permit submitted by Imperial Metals in the Skagit River headwaters during its regular meeting on April 27.

The resolution urges the British Columbia and Washington state governments to work together to protect the Skagit River headwaters and the associated watershed for the Skagit River.

“As the largest water purveyor in Skagit County, serving potable water to more than 80,000 people from mountain streams in the Skagit River Basin, we have an obligation to protect the source of our water,” PUD General Manager George Sidhu said. 

Imperial Metals is a Canadian-based mining company with the largest remaining mineral claim in the Skagit River watershed. Imperial Metals has applied for an exploratory mining permit currently under review by the B.C. government to continue the process of developing an open-pit mine north of the U.S.-Canada border in an area called the "Donut Hole." The area is surrounded by B.C. provincial parkland and is a sensitive, unprotected pocket of land approximately 23 square miles, about the size of Manhattan.

The PUD is concerned about the significant risk to the water quality from the proposed mining activity in the area. The greatest issue is the potential release of mining effluent and tailings into the Skagit River, potentially contaminating the river with toxic chemicals such as arsenic, copper, lead, aluminum, and mercury.

If mining activity leads to the release of such contaminants, the PUD wouldn't be able to divert water from the Skagit River because our water treatment plant doesn't have the capability of treating water with high concentrations of heavy metals. Contamination from mining would significantly reduce the PUD's ability to serve water to our customers.

The Skagit River valley is one of the richest agricultural areas globally. The Skagit is the third largest river system on the west coast of North America, providing spawning habitats for all five native salmon species and two trout species.

The PUD is committed to protecting water quality in the Skagit River to ensure a thriving salmon population, a robust agricultural industry, protecting habitat for local marine life, and supporting a healthy and active community that can enjoy all of the recreational activities that the Skagit provides.