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Concerned about Pebble Mine

Posted: February 11, 2013 - 1:00am

I am a high school student from rural New England who is concerned with the Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region. The Pebble Partnership’s vague proposal is alarming because its location threatens an ancient way of life. Salmon fishing is vital to not only the identity of the people of Alaska, but to the economic welfare of the region. Sadly, the Pebble Mine is yet another iteration of a story of social injustice that we have heard too many times across rural America. Alaskans must speak out to prevent the Pebble Partnership from destroying the livelihoods sustained by the fisheries in exchange for massive profit.

The Pebble Mine would be situated in the middle of a stream system that is a crucial spawning ground for salmon. The mine would be among the largest on earth by any measure. It would cover 28 square miles and be 3.2 miles deep. Mining experts say that the particular type of ore that would be extracted is likely to produce acid mine drainage, which negatively impacts nearby aquatic ecosystems (i.e. the salmon population). In addition to this, the mine would produce as much as 10.8 billion tons of waste rock, in addition to 2.5 billion tons of toxic waste called tailings. The tailing storage facilities would be extremely vulnerable to accidents due to the region’s seismic activity. Such an accident could permanently cripple salmon life in two of the most important rivers in the salmon’s spawning cycle, the Nushagak and the Kvichak and have catastrophic ramifications for the local fisheries.

These fisheries are absolutely critical to the region’s economy. 14,000 people are employed in the fishing industry in the Bristol Bay area. This accounts for close to 75% of local employment. The Pebble Partnership has stated that only 2,000 jobs will be created with the implementation of the mine, and that their hiring focus will be “regional and Alaskan-driven.” This ambiguity continues upon a trend. The Pebble Partnership will not disclose specifics about its hiring focus because it is afraid that the local reaction will stall the project.  

The Pebble Mine will kill the fishing industry and an ancient livelihood, leaving Alaskan Natives to suffer as the Pebble Partnership’s CEOs stuff their pockets. Take action, Alaska, before it is too late. You have an opportunity to set the precedent that rural economies are not a mere afterthought in corporate development.   

Sam Coffin

Hinesburg, Vt.

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