Comment Period is Open

In a major development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers just released the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Pebble Mine. The most important document on Pebble’s path to a key permit to mine the headwaters of Bristol Bay

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ release of Pebble Mine’s draft environmental impact statement is a major step in the federal permitting process. The purpose of the DEIS is to analyze the project’s proposal and present alternative plans. The final document will inform federal agencies as they decide whether or not to permit the copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Bristol Bay.

You can read the draft EIS, view maps and details of the Pebble proposals, and send comments directly to the Army Corps on the site below.

We believe that the Pebble Mine DEIS fails Alaskans.

That document, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), is often considered the lynchpin of permitting because it should outline the risks and options for safely advancing or altering a project. However, in this document, the Corps blatantly ignores risks and Alaskan concerns, seemingly content to push forward a mine that Alaskans have said time and again they don’t want.

Pebble’s DEIS fails to meet basic standards of scientific rigor in a region that demands the opposite. There are myriad ways to back this up, but here is what rises to the top for us.

First, Pebble has put forth a massive proposal that covers only a fraction of the ore in the ground. The Corps has allowed this stunt and as such, the DEIS ignores Pebble’s planned expansion. Proof of the doublespeak by Pebble is ample but most recently played out over the course of just one week. First, Pebble’s CEO claimed in the Anchorage Daily News that the mine would have a “smaller footprint.” However, that Wednesday at a mining conference, the CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, the sole company behind the Pebble Partnership, was asked if Pebble would expand the scope of the project after securing this permit. The CEO responded, “that’s the whole purpose, is to gain your social license to operate…” 

Still, the shoddy DEIS doesn’t hide the massive impacts Pebble would have even without expansion. Pebble’s initial plan would permanently destroy nearly 4,000 acres of wetlands and more than 80 miles of streams in their 14 sq. mile footprint. Destruction of rivers and wetlands on such a massive scale in a region famous for its salmon and trout will be devastating.  Additionally, Pebble would alter the flow of rivers important for salmon, trout and recreation, and require carefully treating massive amounts of water on a scale so colossal it has never been done before. Pebble’s proposal would fundamentally upend the character and productive landscape that local people, commercial fishermen and businesses like depend upon for their livelihoods. 

The DEIS also fails to address questions about Pebble’s proposal and concerns of thousands of Alaskans. Leading up to the DEIS release, the Corps highlighted more than 160 instances where Pebble failed to provide adequate information on specifics of its operation and the DEIS admits that Pebble’s proposal lacks detailed engineering analysis. Typically, lacking information like this results in a halted application, and a DEIS is not released for public review until answers are received. In Pebble’s case however, the Corps chose to ignore those standards, advancing the application and issuing a DEIS anyway.  

Then there’s the issue of the possibility for a catastrophic failure at the proposed tailings facility, which must safely hold the contaminated mining waste without accident, forever. We’re sure that planning documents for the failed Mt. Polley mine facility, which broke and released billions of gallons of wastewater into the Fraser River system, likely also said such chances were minimal. However, human error is universal, and to both ignore that and fail to plan for it is unacceptable.

The Corps is asking those of us who rely on the region to accept insufficient science and take Collier’s word, when he has a $12.5 million personal bonus on the line if the project advances quickly. We should not be asked to risk the most productive fishery on earth based on unsubstantiated claims from a company that has a history of false promises. Yet here we are.  

We urge Senators Murkowski and Sullivan, Congressman Young and Governor Dunleavy to stand up and do what is right for Bristol Bay, not what is right a Canadian mining company that continues to evade the truth.  

Please don’t be duped by Pebble’s supposedly scaled-back plan. The DEIS, even in its current state, makes it crystal clear that the massive, phase-one Pebble mine, and expansion and additional mines that would follow, would cause wide-spread, irreversible harm to the salmon, communities and businesses of Bristol Bay, and taint Alaska’s development reputation in the process. 

Northern Dynasty’s statements to Outside industry contacts prove the current plan is simply a ploy, one regularly used by large conglomerates, to hoodwink locals and gain access. The initial expense of establishing infrastructure within Bristol Bay requires the mine to grow until the last ounce of gold and copper is extracted. The Corps seems content to let them advance this false claim and not properly analyze the full risk to our world-class region, but we aren’t.

Funding the Fight

Rivers that currently flow gin-clear, nutrient rich habitat in the Bristol Bay area of Alaska that supports massive salmon runs and are in Alaska’s designated trophy rainbow Trout area are in critical danger of being destroyed.  The proposed Pebble mine is a very real threat to these rivers.  This mine is in the wrong place!  We understand that the world needs minerals, but the correct decisions on where to mine for them must be the primary factor in deciding if projects should go forward.  The rivers that flow into Bristol Bay are not the right location for massive open-pit mines and tailing lakes that need perpetual care.  

This is not a republican vs. democrat, or conservative vs. liberal issue, this is a right and wrong issue.  We are in a situation in which because of loopholes in current permitting processes, a mine that will consume thousands and thousands of tons of habitat and adversely affect water flow plus disrupt a perfectly functioning fishery is receiving the green light from the US Army Corp of Engineers to dredge and fill this area.   We are in a tough battle and need your help to ensure that this pristine fishery remains intact. 

The effort to protect region takes funding.  I know it seems crazy that the Federal and state governments would even consider allowing this project to go through in this area but the reality is that they are.  The Bristol Bay Defense Fund managed by two aggressive and intelligent people that have been involved in this Pebble battle for many years. Tim Bristol and Shoren Brown, both of whom know how to get things done, navigate through Washington DC and will ensure that every dollar donated goes directly towards efforts to protect these rivers and fisheries.  Please donate as much as you can to this effort to protect these rivers of Alaska. 

Click on the link below to learn more and to donate.  You can also contact me directly if you have any questions.  Thank you in advance for your help.

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