Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Congress Revisits Mine Permitting

Another congressional oversight hearing was convened in Washington DC this morning by the House Committee on Natural Resources, regarding the National Environmental Policy Act’s role in permitting projects, including the Pebble mine.

Witnesses included Tom Collier, chief executive officer of the Pebble Partnership, the subsidiary of British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, which wants to build and operate the mine.

The witness list also includes Kim Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai, the Dillingham, Alaska, entity working with village corporations and tribal governments for responsible land and water management in the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.

“Pebble is not supported by Alaskans and shouldn’t be given a stage by lawmakers in DC, especially behind our backs and during our busiest time of the year,” said Melanie Brown, a veteran fish harvester, who was already out in her boat on Bristol Bay pulling in salmon. Brown called the hearing “a sneak attack, bait and switch that shows how out of touch the committee members are with Alaska.

“We are working non-stop this time of year to make sure our boats and nets are ready to catch fish that feed not only our families and support our businesses, while a foreign mining company gets another pointless hearing,” she said.

Representatives of 15 national sportsmen’s organizations also signed a letter sent to Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, expressing their concern that Pebble mine backers continue to get a political stage to promote the mine, particularly at this time of year. “We just need Pebble to go away so we can run our businesses without a giant threat hanging over our shoulders,” said John Holman, a lodge owner on the Kvichak River, in a statement released by the Bristol Bay sportsmen’s group.

Mine backers contend that the massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine can be built and operated in harmony with the salmon fishery. Extensive testimony compiled by the US Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that there is great potential risk of adverse effects on salmon habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed if the mine is developed.

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