The proposed Pebble Open Pit Mine – which would be the largest North American copper and gold mine – has outraged environmentalists who see Bristol Bay, Alaska as a “vital ecosystem” for salmon and other species.
The threat puts the headwaters of the two most famous salmon producing river drainages in Alaska –the Mulchatna/ Nushagak River drainage and the Newhalen / Kvichak River drainage, both of which feed into the renowned Bristol Bay – at risk. Anticipated to be the first of many, the mine would also include the largest dam in the world – larger than Three Gorges Dam in China – and would be made of earth, not concrete, to hold back the toxic waste created in the mining process.
Alaska's wildlife and salmon habitat would be at risk with the proposed Pebble Mine
Bristol Bay – home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery – is a pristine premier fishing and wildlife area. Its waters are the source of the most productive commercial and sport salmon fisheries in the world. Many native groups and commercial fishermen are opposed to the proposed Pebble Mine.
According to the National Resource Defense Council:
“The only way to extract the low-grade ore from the region would be to use a brutal and pollution-prone technique known as hard-rock mining, which includes powerful explosives and massive drilling equipment. At one of the proposed mines in Pebble, a remote, roadless area sandwiched between two national parks, spongy, lake-studded tundra would be scraped away, leaving a yawning two-mile-wide, 2,000-foot-deep pit in its place. This would be the largest open-pit mine in the world — wide enough to line up nine of the world’s longest cruise ships end to end and deep enough to swallow the Empire State Building. At a second mine, explosives would be used to create a series of underground cave-ins to extract ore.”
While posing a potentially terrible risk to the environment, this project would actually provide little economic benefit to Alaskans.
According to the EPA, the hardrock mining industry is the single largest source of toxic releases in the U.S. According to Lance Trasky, former ADF&G Habitat Regional Division Supervisor for Bristol Bay for 26 years:
“If mine permitting is allowed to proceed under current state and federal standards and permitting processes, the very large scale mining of sulfide based copper ore in the Nushagak and Kvichak drainages will physically destroy thousands of acres of very high quality spawning and rearing habitat and over time will almost certainly seriously degrade fisheries habitat and fisheries production in downstream portions of these drainages.”
As former Governor Jay Hammond said “I can’t imagine a worse location for a mine of this type unless it was in my kitchen”.
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