WHAT IT IS
A Canadian mining corporation wants to create one of North America’s largest open-pit gold-copper mines within a much larger potential mining district in the headwaters of Bristol Bay. At the core of Pebble Mine complex, covering some 15 square miles, would be an open pit measuring approximately two miles long, a mile and half wide and 1,700 feet deep. Over its lifetime, it will produce 2.5 BILLION TONS of waste. The proposed Pebble Mine, which would be the first of many in the area, would include the largest dam in the world, larger than Three Gorges Dam in China, and made of earth not concrete, to hold back the toxic waste created in the mining process.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
The Pebble Mine site lies in the heart of WORLD CLASS TROUT and SALMON STREAMS, a land veined with brooks and rivulets, riddled with pools and puddles. In addition, Bristol Bay is home to the WORLD’S LARGEST commercial wild salmon fishery; many of those fish spawn in the Kvichak and other tributaries in the Iliamna Lake area.
Sport fishermen spend nearly $60 million a year to experience the prize fishing in this area. Almost every fly shop or tackle manufacturer in the world likely earns some portion of their living from people fishing in this area. The harvest and processing of Bristol Bay fish generates nearly $320 million a year and provides jobs for some 12,500 people.
Year after year, Bristol Bay produces MILLIONS OF FISH worth hundreds of millions of dollars, like no other place in the world.
The efforts to stop this mine are being supported by a very broad coalition of individual anglers, commercial anglers, lodge owners, hunters, locals who see this as a threat to their future.
WHAT’S THE CURRENT STATUS?
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Pebble Mine project was released last month and it represents a complete failure by the Army Corps of Engineers. It is incomplete, unscientific and unacceptable. It violates years of federal standards for these kinds of projects, fails to make Pebble answer major questions about how their project will operate, and ignores the possibility of a catastrophic failure. The Army Corps of Engineers should be embarrassed and American taxpayers should be outraged that they will be left holding the bill for this disaster in the making. The Pebble Draft EIS should be thrown out and the process should be restarted once Pebble can answer basic questions about how and where they plan to mine, and how they plan to protect people, drinking water, and salmon jobs in Bristol Bay.
There are three major ways that the Draft EIS for the Pebble Mine fails to meet the most basic standards:
A complete lack of protection for the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and the $1.5 billion industry it supports. Pebble actually promises that they can make the water in Bristol Bay cleaner than it is today after they use it to process toxic mine waste. They offer no description of how they will accomplish or pay for this historic feat, in spite of the fact that it has never been done before at this scale. When the EPA studied the impacts of a mine on Bristol Bay, they found that it would decimate fish habitat throughout the region and would certainly cripple the $1.5 billion commercial salmon fishing industry in the region. Rather than follow this science, the Corps accepted Pebble’s lies at face value and made them the baseline of the Draft EIS.
A complete failure to plan for the kinds of disasters that are the hallmark of open pit mines around the world. The facilities that are used to store mine waste at open pit copper mines have a long history of failing – causing mine waste to leak and contaminate waterways forever. This already long list grows each year, and notably includes the Mount Polley Mine that spilled billions of gallons of toxic mine waste after its dam (which was designed by the same company that Pebble used) failed in British Columbia. Most modern and sophisticated mines in the world have failed even when held to the most rigorous standards. Yet somehow the EIS for Pebble does not address this scenario at all.
Pebble can’t answer major questions about how their project would work – and the Corps doesn’t care. Throughout the scoping process the Army Corps of Engineers highlighted more than 160 instances where Pebble failed to provide adequate information. Typically a failure to answer these kinds of questions means that an application stops processing until the Corps receives answers. The Army Corps chose to ignore those standards in this case, and simply chose to move ahead with the application in spite of the fact that Pebble has failed to address major questions about the mine’s function, its impact on the fisheries of Bristol Bay, and the impacts on tribal communities. The Corps agrees that Pebble’s application is incomplete – they’ve just chosen not to care.
The job of the Army Corps of Engineers it to make sure that the projects they approve are well-planned, thought-out and safe. By holding projects to high standards they help to protect local communities and businesses from the risks associated with development projects. In the case of the Pebble Mine, they have abandoned those responsibilities and failed at that job. It is imperative that Congress hold them accountable, insist that they stop this charade, and produce a new DEIS that meets the bare minimum standards of scrutiny that the American people expect.
GET INVOLVED TODAY
From our friends at Save Bristol Bay:
Given the failure of the Army Corps to meet its statutory mandate in evaluating this mine, it is time to explore our options for action.
The public comment period opens for 90-days on March 1. It is crucial for everyone reading this to submit comments to the Army Corps. These comments are the foundation of our efforts to force the government to go back and do the job right.
We need to demand accountability at all levels of government. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has consistently said she wants a robust permitting process that involves Alaskans and addresses their concerns. This DEIS fails to meet that standard and Lisa Murkowski needs to know you care. She holds an important gavel in the Senate and can demand answers from executive agencies that are failing Alaskans.