Stand Against Pebble Mining in Bristol Bay

I do not know even where to start with this. I will be posting webpages throughout.Have you ever been busy doing something and hearing a few words made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck? It was about Bristol Bay in Alaska.

Pebble mining has been proposed.. So I thought about conservation and gathered some information as and filled my head with the following.

A gold and copper mine proposed for the headwaters of Bristol Bay would dig up roughly 60 million dump trucks worth of material, construct massive storage structures for toxic waste, build a power plant large enough to power a small city, and bulldoze an 86-mile transportation corridor through pristine ecosystems—but the federal agency assigned to evaluate the mining company’s plan says there’s no risk to the watershed.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been on the fast-track to permitting the Pebble Mine project and part of that process is determining what impact mining will have on the region’s critically important freshwater resources.

It is said it will not hurt the environment in anyway.. BUT…

The risk is real

Nature and people can’t live without fresh water, and Bristol Bay is the lifeblood that sustains every species calling the region home.

There are more than 190 bird species in Bristol Bay, and all of them depend on a healthy water supply. So do roughly 400 rare freshwater harbor seals that live permanently in Iliamna Lake, where developers want to ship ore concentrate and other materials via a barge system. Brown bears migrate around the region in search of food and depend heavily on salmon. In fact, the salmon that thrive in Bristol Bay’s clean, cold tributaries are critical to the region’s remarkable abundance as mature fish distribute marine nutrients from the Bering Sea and North Pacific throughout the Bristol Bay watershed. This summer, more than 56 million salmon returned to their natal streams to complete their epic life cycles.

The communities of Bristol Bay need a healthy, freshwater-filled environment to thrive, too. Brown bear viewing supports a vibrant tourism industry worth tens of millions every year and salmon fishing supports an industry worth at least one $1 billion every year. Native communities rely on the harvest of salmon and other wild species for most of the protein consumed each year.

The environmental, economic, and cultural risks of this massive open-pit mine located at the headwaters of two of the planet’s most important salmon producing rivers are well documented. And an abundance of care is required to protect Bristol Bay’s irreplaceable

What’s at stake?

On average, 40-50 million wild salmon make the epic migration from the ocean to the headwaters of Bristol Bay every year – like no place else on earth! The Bristol Bay watershed:

This world-class resource is at risk from the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive copper and gold mine that would destroy salmon habitat, and cause lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem. According to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, Phase 1 of the proposed Pebble Mine would:

  • Destroy more than 80 miles of streams and 3,500 acres of wetlands
  • Create a toxic pit lake filled with 61 billion gallons of mine water
  • Generate billions of gallons of mine pollution each and every year that will require treatment in perpetuity
  • Build and operate a 230 MW power plant
  • Lay a 188-mile long natural gas pipeline over land and under Cook Inlet and Iliamna Lake – Alaska’s largest freshwater lake
  • Create a barge system across Lake Iliamna to transport mine concentrate

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is a sustainable and renewable resource, whereas the ore from the Pebble mine is nonrenewable. The ore will be shipped overseas to Asia, the profits will go to a foreign mining company, while the severe and lasting impacts stay here. In contrast, if the clean water and wild salmon habitat of the Bristol Bay watershed are protected, the salmon fishery can continue to feed our nation and power our economy forever.  Perpetual pollution or perpetual salmon?  An easy choice.

Why protect salmon?

By Guido Rahr, President and CEO of Wild Salmon Center

Few animals have been as central to the Pacific human experience as salmon. Their annual migrations are a miracle of nature. They feed us and their presence tells us that our rivers are still healthy. From grizzly bears to orca whales, at least 137 different species depend on the marine-rich nutrients that wild salmon provide. The last intact salmon watersheds around the North Pacific are composed of free-flowing rivers and dense forests, which provide clean drinking water and absorb carbon to slow climate change. Pacific salmon fuel a $3 billion industry, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and local economies and communities around the Pacific Rim. Millions of people around the Pacific rely on salmon as a healthy and reliable source of protein. Native people have always seen the salmon as the life-sustaining centerpiece of their culture, dating back millennia.

In short, salmon are the key to protecting a way of life rooted in the North Pacific environment: protect salmon and you protect forests, food, water, communities, and economies. But our work over the last two decades has shown that only an aggressive, proactive approach on the strongest remaining salmon rivers – salmon strongholds – can halt the decline of these iconic species and all the benefits we derive from them.

The Clean Water Act

Alaska Native communities, commercial and sports fishermen, businesses, conservation groups, and sportsmen called on the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the impacts of large-scale mining. They petitioned the EPA to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect the salmon’s spawning grounds from mine waste disposal.

The EPA’s scientific assessment determined the construction of a large-scale mine in the area would result in lasting harm to the salmon fishery. In July 2014, the EPA initiated a proposal, called the Proposed Determination, placing reasonable limitations on mine waste disposal in the Bristol Bay headwaters to protect the salmon fishery.

Despite over 1.6 million comments of support for these Clean Water Act protections, including over 20,000 Alaskans, the EPA under the Trump Administration, initiated a process to reverse course on its proposed protections, and withdrew these important salmon protections in July 2019.

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