Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Panel Discussions on Pebble Mine Science Under Way In Anchorage

Several days of panel discussions aimed at validating the science compiled by proponents of the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska are under way in Anchorage, and will continue though next week.

The sessions at the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus are being conducted by the Keystone Center, an independent nonprofit group based in Colorado, hired by the Pebble Limited Partnership.

According to Keystone, the purpose of the dialogue is to assess the credibility and sufficiency of Pebble’s science through an independent scientific review, and then make that information available to government agencies, environmental organizations, and others with interest in the project.

Opponents of the massive mining project at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, are not buying that.

About 100 Bristol Bay residents, fishermen, hunters and anglers turned out for the opening panel discussion Oct. 2, making their opposition clear to panelists and then to a crowd gathered outside the library for a rally in opposition to the mine.

The thousands of pages of documents compiled by the Pebble Limited Partnership don’t come close to providing the transparency and neutrality offered by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing watershed assessment process, said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program.

The EPA has spent the last 18 months independently assembling an assessment of the impact that mining would have on the region.

Mine opponents have also strongly criticized a decision by Keystone to dismiss University of Washington professor Daniel Schindler as a panelist, after inviting him to serve on the fisheries panel.
Keystone’s Todd Bryan said that his organization is simply following National Research Council policies regarding bias and conflict of interest and that Schindler has written op-ed pieces that violate the bias policy.

“How can you have an honest conversation when you exclude one of the world’s foremost experts on this fishery?” asked Sam Snyder of the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

Schindler’s comments that Keystone found objectionable were contained in a commentary written by Schindler and Norm Van Vactor, general manager for Leader Creek fisheries, which was published online on the Crosscut website in June.

“There is clear evidence that mining activities and the infrastructure development needed to support these activities pose significant long-term risks to productive salmon ecosystems,” they said.

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