Have you heard about the Pebble Mine Project? For over 30 years, Alaskans across the state have been holding the line to keep The Pebble Mine from happening. The proposed project is a massive open-pit mine intended to extract copper, gold, and molybdenum at the headwaters of pristine Bristol Bay. If fully built, the mine would produce up to 10.2 billion tons of toxic waste that would remain on the site forever. Because of its size and location, those toxins threaten the entire watershed, including the largest wild sockeye salmon run on Earth.
Bristol Bay is home to one of the most valuable commercial fisheries in the world, as well as vibrant subsistence, sport fishing, hunting, tourism, and recreation. The Pebble Mine puts thousands of Alaskan jobs at risk and endangers the health of deep-rooted Alaskan communities and industries.
If built, it risks:
• A $2.2 billion annual commercial fishery • $90 million in Alaska state taxes and licensing fees • 15,000 fishing jobs • 7,000 sport fishing and hunting jobs • Thousands of full and part-time tourism and recreation jobs • A 6,000+ year-old subsistence harvest
As Alaskans, we know we can’t risk any jobs or resources right now. Our families need support, and our freezers need salmon. Salmon is a part of our lives no matter where you live in Alaska. Why risk such a valuable resource? Luckily right now, Alaskans can take action.
EPA took an important step on May 26 by opening public comment on a Proposed Determination that will protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine permanently. In its draft determination, the EPA proposed prohibiting the construction and operation of Pebble’s 2020 mine plan and restricting any future mining of the Pebble deposit to a size less than Pebble’s 2020 mine plan. Now is the time for Alaskans to make their voices heard in the public comment period.
Pebble’s current proposed plan is just the tip of the iceberg. The actual plans are to initiate massive industrialization of the Bristol Bay Watershed with roads, mines, power plants, pipelines, processing facilities, mine waste sites, oil drums, barges, trucks, dust, noise, halogen light, diesel exhaust, garbage dumps, mining towns, saloons, brothels, gambling, etc. Boxing in the Pebble project to a relatively “small” footprint means that the mine will not be developed.
Public comments are due on July 5. This is Alaskans’ chance to ensure the EPA knows this mine should never happen. After considering public comment, the EPA will prepare a recommended determination. Lastly, EPA makes a final determination. This is an important step in the process because it’s the one opportunity for public comment, but EPA still has a couple more steps to go after this.
We’re hopeful the EPA will move forward quickly to get to a final determination and stop Pebble Mine for good!
Jonas Banta is a fisherman, activist, and the Anchorage Community Organizer for The Alaska Center. He is a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara.
PROUDLY POWERED BY SOL DE MEDIANOCHE NEWS, LLC. Sol de Medianoche is a monthly publication of the Latino community in Anchorage, Alaska