The EPA received approximately 185,000 comments on the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, by the close of the public comment period on July 23. According to a release sent out by Trout Unlimited, over 98 percent of the comments opposed Pebble Mine—a proposed open-pit, gold and copper mine located at the headwaters of two the world’s most production sockeye salmon rivers. Over 180,000 comments called for the EPA to stop development of the mine under protections afforded by the Clean Water Act.
Opponents of the mine consider the risk of environmental damage from the waste material (an estimated 10 billion tons) generated by the mining process too great. If allowed, the mine will be located at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, the spawning grounds for over 40 million fish annually. Even without a major disaster, experts predict significant, environmental damage will occur if the mine is developed. The EPA’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment finds that normal mining practices would destroy as much as 87 miles of rivers and streams and 4,200 acres of wetlands. A major catastrophe, or reoccurring leaks or spills, could devastate the region.
Possibly most note-worthy is the diversity of groups opposed to the mine. Hunting and fishing groups, commercial and recreational anglers, chefs and restaurant owners, churches and community groups all voiced their opposition to the development of Pebble Mine. “People have spoken loudly and clearly for their jobs, their businesses and their way of life. They want this Administration to stand up and protect Bristol Bay and its 14,000 jobs before it’s too late,” said Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program.
On August 7 and 8, a panel of experts will review and revise the draft Assessment at a public forum in Anchorage. Then the Obama Administration must decide whether or not to protect this vast fishery.