Pebble Mine: can be stopped?

By March 1, 2013 Ocean News


Mining industry is always at risk to cause problems in rivers, lakes, and oceans through development and contamination. Most of time, these problems are caused not by the mining itself but by the way they have to store their waste. Those wastes are often contaminated by the minerals they try to find at the mines, like copper or mercury. Nowadays, we are finishing the Earth’s minerals store, so the industry is taking every single opportunity to develop a mine. They are even thinking about mining the deep sea!!!

Pool 32 Bear with Salmon-thumb-500x353-3980

One of the biggest projects is the Pebble Mine, which is going to be build in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Bristol Bay is well known for the return of about ten million salmon every single year; they stay around in the bay before going against the currents of nearby streams to mate and lay their eggs. And not only animals like bears or wolves use them to feed themselves. In Bristol Bay, the salmon industry worth $480 million a year, and employs around 14,000 workers. All can vanish by the Pebble Mine.

This Pebble Mine is going to work like gold and copper, and they are planning to build at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. It will produce around 10 billion tons of contaminated waste! So if this is happening, you can say goodbye to the whole ecosystem. And pray for no natural catastrophe, because if all this waste is released for some reason, it could be fatal. But it’s not necessarily a huge amount of waste to alter the ecosystem. Low levels of dissolved copper (10 µg/L) affect the olfactory functions of salmons, which means that their navigation abilities are reduced and also their responses to alarm pheromones, and only with 3 hours exposure.

Vermont Superfund Site Copper Mine

Most of the Bristol Bay residents are opposed to this project, so the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) made an assessment, which also talks about the risks of the waste storage and the impacts the mine will have. Ok, so now we have a governmental organization, which knows the danger and has the authority to stop the mine (under the Clean Water Act). All seems to be solved, right?

Well, the EPA won’t do anything to stop the mine. The only reason for this behavior that comes to my mind is money, because the mine may contain more than $500 billion in minerals. So the Peeble Mine partnership is keeping the EPA away, with the help of Alaska Attorney General Michael Geraghty. Read this letter, where Geraghty says that EPA’s actions are “unlawfully preemptive, premature, arbitrary, capricious and vague.” But at the same time, he is asking the EPA for help to clean up the Red Devil mine. Funny, uh?

I can only have one conclusion: if the mine has money, the EPA has no authority, but if the mine runs out of minerals, the EPA has the obligation to clean it. And quickly. Do you agree with this? Is the EPA an agency made only to solve the problems, and not to avoid them? Here you can sign a petition for a call on Obama to stop the Pebble Mine.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Dr Clive Fox says:

    Dear Sonia

    It would be helpful to see much more details on what is proposed e.g. how will the waste be disposed of?

    Are the proposals published somewhere?

    Best wishes

  • Sonia Doblado says:

    Dear Dr. Clive Fox, all the details about the Pebble Mine are published on their website: What they say about the tailings is that they “will be piped into a manmade tailings facility we will construct and engineer for containment”. And that they trust their containers.
    You can also read this:

    I hope this was you asked for! For me, the main problem here is that it’s pretty difficult (even impossible) to find information about how they would react to potential accidents… The Pebble Partnership seem so confident about their Project!

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