Proponents of the controversial Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska are not expected to determine until later this year when they will submit their permit applications, but opponents are asking the federal government to put a halt to it now.
At a gathering in Anchorage on Jan. 27, fish harvesters, Alaska Native tribes and the Bristol Bay Native Corp. met to thank Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, for his opposition to the mine, in the wake of a final Environmental Protection Agency report that outlined potential catastrophic affects of development and production of the proposed massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine.
His stance in opposition to the mine meanwhile has gained Begich growing support from some fisheries organizations in a tough upcoming battle for re-election. The Alaska Democrat said he has long supported the mining industry in Alaska but that “years of scientific study (have) proven the proposed Pebble mine cannot be developed safely in the Bristol Bay watershed.
“Pebble,” said Begich, “is not worth the risk.”
Speakers at the informational session at Anchorage’s public library included former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford, Alannah Hurley, director of United Tribes for Bristol Bay, Katherine Carscallen, a board member of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Corp., Bristol Bay lodge owner Brian Kraft, and representatives of Bristol Bay Native Corp. and the Alaska Conservation Foundation.
“God could not have chosen a more dangerous place to put tis kind of a deposit,” said Halford, who applauded Begich’s stand and said he hoped the EPA and President Obama would act to protect Bristol Bay’s salmon habitat.
“We are asking the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from unsustainable development,” said Carscallen.
The vast majority of BBNC’s some 9,400 shareholders are opposed to the mine, said Andria Agli, vice president of shareholder and corporate relations. BBNC in January published a 50-page reference guide to the issues surrounding the Pebble mine.
The group asked more than 100 people participating in the session to write to the EPA and ask that the federal agency move forward with implementing protections to the Bristol Bay watershed available under the Clean Water Act.
Pebble Limited Partnership spokesperson Mike Heatwole said the PLP”s goal for 2014 is to work with Northern Dynasty Minerals in Vancouver, British Columbia in securing a new partner to advance responsible development for the mine. The PLP maintains that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the multi-million dollar wild salmon fishery in the Bristol Bay watershed, which provides thousands of jobs in the commercial and sport fishing industries and sustenance for area subsistence hunters and wildlife.