Pebble Mine Comment Period Ends

Monday (July 23) marked the end of the commenting period for individuals to send their thoughts on the EPA’s watershed assessment of the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. So what comes next?

An Alaskan mine that may contain more than $500 billion in gold, copper and other minerals will never get dug if environmentalists get their way.

The proposed Pebble Mine, near the headwaters of Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska, could yield a staggering 107 million ounces of gold, 80 billion pounds of copper and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum, which is used to make steel alloys. Pebble Partnership, which wants to do the digging, is so confident of the bounty beneath the ground it has spent five years and $107 million monitoring the soil, water and air in order to assure the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) it can mine without causing ecological damage.

“The quantity, grade and continuity of mineralization at Pebble … demonstrate the project’s potential to be one of the great metal producers of the 21st century,” said Rod Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, which is working on the project with London-based Anglo American.

Pebble officials say the project has support from Alaskans, and deny that it would imperil fish. Several local groups have weighed in either in favor of the project, or for giving the public more time to debate it.

“If the Pebble mine can be built and operated in a manner that protects the environment, it would provide the kind of economic development our communities desperately need,” read a letter Nuna Resources, a local group which advocates sustainable development in the area, sent to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson this week. “Jobs that could help people live comfortably here, even when gasoline costs $9 a gallon, a gallon of milk can cost more than $10, and electricity prices are five times the national average or more. Those jobs would also support our families and help revive our communities.”

Read the rest here. It appears as if the EPA is not inclined to attempt its 404(c) authority to preemptively end the project without at least finishing the final draft of the watershed assessment. One can hope the EPA shows interest in working with some of the mining engineers to see if they can work cooperatively to figure out ways in which environmental concerns can be alleviated, and both a healthy fishing industry and a mine can co-exist. The EPA did acknowledge that at some point a decision must be made:

EPA officials, meanwhile, said that the agency has made no judgments about the use of its regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act and the draft study in no way prejudges future consideration of proposed mining activities. Officials told the agency has worked with the fishing industry and other “important stakeholders” to make sure all voices are heard. But they said the project has to get an up or down vote at some point.

“In order to ensure that the final assessment is released in a timely fashion, it is imperative that this process move forward on schedule,” the agency said in a statement.


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