Imperial Metals to return mining rights for Manning Park 'donut hole'

Mining proposal cancelled

The Manning Park “donut hole” is being protected from mining.

The B.C. government announced Wednesday it has reached an agreement with Imperial Metals and the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission that will see the mining company return all mineral rights to the province related to the unprotected area between Manning and Skagit Valley provincial parks.

“Today’s agreement is another step in the right direction to protect the rich natural heritage of the Silverdaisy watershed and surrounding areas for generations to come,” said Premier John Horgan. “This milestone also reflects on the important relationship we have with our neighbours in Washington state.”

When Skagit Valley was elevated to provincial park status in 1996, the 5,800-hectare "donut hole" was left out due to mineral claims dating back to the 30s.

Imperial Metals, the current holder of the mineral rights, applied in 2018 to probe the area for copper and gold, sending environmentalists into an uproar on both sides of the border. The attention led the B.C. government to ban logging in the donut hole in 2019.

Nearly 300 First Nations, elected officials, businesses and conservation groups in Canada and the U.S. signed onto a coalition led by Washington Wild to oppose the mining proposal, which was still actively being pursued by the company last year.

The donut hole sits at the source of the Skagit River, which flows through Washington State before reaching the Puget Sound. As a result, the Upper Skagit watershed is protected by the Canada/U.S. High Ross Treaty.

“This is incredible news and represents a win/win for Indigenous peoples, British Columbia visitors to the Skagit and Manning Parks, downstream communities and businesses in Washington State and Imperial Metals,” said Tom Uniack, executive director for Washington Wild.

“It was clear that the coalition’s efforts played a key role in stopping the logging threats and now the mining threat to the iconic Skagit River and its headwaters.”

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee applauded the move.

“The Skagit River is one of the most diverse salmon habitats in Washington state, including for Chinook, which are essential to the survival of the revered southern resident orca. This agreement is a shining example of the importance of cross-border collaboration when confronted with challenges that know no borders,” he said.

Consultation on the future use and protection of land within the Silverdaisy watershed will follow, said province.

Imperial Metals said in a statement it expects to pocket $24 million in the deal, covering prior investments.

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