Canadian Company: EPA is Evil, Let Us Create Giant Alaska Mine – by Hal Herring (Field and Stream – June 10, 2013)

There is nothing like a good anti-federal-government advertising campaign to rally support for, well, almost anything. In this time of Internal Revenue Service scandals and accusations that the Environmental Protection Agency has charged so-called “conservative” groups for Freedom of Information Act requests that they handed over to environmental groups for free, the time was ripe for a smart advertising professional to tap in to the zeitgeist and try, yet again, to sell a highly skeptical American public on the Pebble Project—a huge proposed gold and copper mine proposed by two foreign mining corporations to be built on public lands in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.

On June 4, Northern Dynasty Minerals, Limited, a Vancouver, Canada-based corporation that owns 50 percent of the Pebble Project, ran an ad in the Washington Post and on various political websites that demands an end to what it calls EPA’s “black box bias” against the mine. The ad also claims that the EPA is manipulating public opinion and denying science in response the results of the EPA’s 14 month-long comprehensive Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) show that the Pebble Project does indeed threaten the greatest salmon fishery on earth (a $500 million industry annually) and the estimated 14,000 jobs that depend upon it, thus industrializing one of America’s wildest and most pristine expanses of public land, which would forever change the culture and economy of the 7,500 people, mostly Native Americans, who now call it home.

I’m not sure what the Canadian mining executives thought the report should have said. Perhaps that Pebble Project would build the first road, first power-generating facility, and first deep-water port in the region to open up mining on tens of thousands of acres of public land in the trackless headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers.

That Pebble mine alone would be North America’s largest open pit mine, using 35 billion gallons of water a year taken from groundwater, from the Koktuli River, and from Talarik Creek (that feeds the extraordinarily pure freshwater Lake Iliamna, home to some of the world’s largest rainbow trout), obliterating between 55 and 87 miles of salmon streams and rivers, and attempting to contain—forever—10 billion tons of waste rock and contaminated water behind earthen dams 740 feet high and 4.3 miles long. That’s all bound to have some environmental effects, many of which are described in the EPA’s doorstopper of a report.

In a June 4 press release, Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ronald Thiessen said this of the EPA’s report:
“We believe the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment process to be a cynical effort to manipulate public perception about a project before it has been proposed or undergone federal and state permitting. And we believe the draft BBWA to be a fundamentally biased report that should have no bearing on the future of America’s most important undeveloped mineral resource.”

But if you are not Northern Dynasty, or the other half of the partnership, British mining giant Anglo American PLC, the EPA’s assessment seems pretty reasonable. Jason Metrokin, President and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corporation, commenting on the BBWA to the Alaska Business Monthly in May, said, “BBNC appreciates EPA’s scientific effort in creating its Draft Watershed Assessment, which provides Bristol Bay residents an unprecedented resource for reviewing current scientific knowledge about our region and helping determine the sustainability of potential development.

What we have read so far suggests that EPA’s draft findings regarding mining the Pebble deposit largely align with our own: The science exists now to show that the proposed Pebble mine does not fit with a sustainable future for Bristol Bay, and should not be allowed to proceed.”

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