SEATTLE — The British Columbia government has announced the surrender of mining rights at the headwaters of the Skagit River, after years of controversy over protection of one of the region’s premier salmon rivers.
Under an agreement announced Wednesday by the office of the B.C. premier, Imperial Metals will return to the province of B.C. all of its mining and related rights within an area known as the Skagit River “Donut Hole,” The Seattle Times reported.
The agreement is intended to ensure the preservation and protection of natural and cultural resources and recreational opportunities within the headwaters of the Skagit River.
The cost of the buyout of mining rights was $24 million in Canadian dollars, paid by the Canadian government and non-profits, according to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation.
The most recent controversy over logging and possible mining started in 2018 when former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wrote British Columbia Premier John Horgan of her “grave concern.” The letter admonished his government for not consulting with Seattle on a B.C. logging project underway 125 miles (201 kilometers) away from the city at the Skagit River headwaters.
Durkan argued the logging undercut the spirit of a decades-old treaty between the two governments protecting the land and river, and was endangering vulnerable fish populations, including Chinook salmon and steelhead.
The potential for industrial activity in the region has historically been vehemently opposed by Indigenous communities and local and international environmental groups.