A final tally isn’t available yet, but the majority of opinion offered to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on its draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment rests firmly on the side of the fish, rather than copper, gold and molybdenum.
The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, having taken a hard look at responses posted on the EPA’s website, noted that as of June 28, 68 percent, or 362,235 of the 527,192 responses, felt that development of the foreign-owned Pebble prospect would threaten habitat of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery.
“This is an incredible victory for Bristol Bay, with hundreds of thousands of people across the United States recognizing that Bristol Bay’s jobs, economy and way of life shouldn’t be risked by a massive open-pit mine that could destroy this sustainable fishing industry, and the 14,000 jobs it supports,” said Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “The results of two comment periods show that Americans want the federal government to act quickly to keep dangerous projects like the Pebble mine out of Bristol Bay.”
The Pebble Limited Partnership(PLP), with offices in Anchorage, is a joint venture of London-based Anglo American plc, and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., based in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The PLP maintains that it can develop and operate the mine in harmony with the multi-million dollar fishery critical to commercial, sport and subsistence users, as well as wildlife in Southwest Alaska. The PLP wants to move forward with the permitting process and get started with its project, which it says will provide jobs and put a lot of money in state tax coffers.
But the EPA’s draft watershed document, that was open for public comment through June 30, says that even under routine operation, the mine could result in 90 miles of streams blocked or eliminated and 4,800 acres of wetlands destroyed. This alone would have an adverse impact on water quality and habitat, and if a leak or spill of mine tailings occurred, the impact could be far worse, the report said.
Opposition to the mine has come from a broad range of business firms, the latest being a group of 27 investment firms led by Trillium Asset Management LLC and Calvert Investments. The investment firms recently called on the EPA to initiate a Clean Water Act Section 404© review for the proposed Pebble mine.
Under Section 404© the EPA may prohibit or restrict the disposal of mine waste if it determines that the mine will have an unacceptable adverse effect on fishery areas, wildlife and recreational areas.