If there’s one thing salesmen know, it’s the abiding faith that if they say something over and over again, that it will become true (at least in terms of public perception). So it’s no wonder that the Pebble Partnership has spent millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying to convince us that there is no plan to mine in Bristol Bay. Sadly, Alaska’s own Governor Sean Parnell has bought in, repeating this same tired rhetoric just this week at the world-famous Boston Seafood Show which he attends to represent the state of Alaska and our seafood industry.
Let’s be absolutely clear: there is both a mine plan and a permit application for water rights on the table. Publicly accessible information is out there to prove it, much of it just down the street from the Governor’s house and office.
Visit the Alaska Department of Natural Resources website, where you can find plans filed by Northern Dynasty (Pebble Partnership) in which they depict massive dams and tailings impoundments. You see, state law requires a detailed project description in order to apply for water rights and receive a priority date. Since Alaska’s system is based on a principal of “first in line first in right,” the companies seeking to develop Pebble quickly applied for the rights to “use” water from Upper Talarik Creek and the South Fork of the Koktuli River — some of the most salmon rich headwaters of the Bristol Bay fisheries.
If that’s not enough, look at the presentations ( northerndynastyminerals.com/ndm/Presentations.asp ) that the company shows to corporate investors. Slideshows are filled with braggadocio about the sheer magnitude and unprecedented size of the project. Check out filings made with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). The 2011 Wardrop Report — commissioned by these foreign mining companies — includes their own analysis about deposit estimates, mining methods, waste management and even a chapter called “mine planning.” In a press release, Northern Dynasty called their mine plans “economically feasible and permittable.” If the companies behind Pebble believe the Wardrop plans are factual, why shouldn’t Alaskans and those responsible for upholding the nations Clean Water Act examine them as real mine plans?
For further insight just turn on your television. Slick advertisements intend to move public opinion in support of Pebble Partnership’s plan to build the world’s largest open-pit copper mine at the headwaters of the greatest wild salmon fishery on planet Earth. The magnitude of their ad campaign testifies to the size of their plans in Bristol Bay.
Mine plans for Pebble exist. You can see for yourself. Pebble will kick and scream about it, but these plans show sufficient information about the location, size and geochemical makeup of the deposit, water use, power needs, waste, etc. to have an honest conversation about the impacts of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay and the tens of thousands of jobs generated by Bristol Bay’s salmon resource.
The Pebble Limited Partnership’s approach to the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment is an insult to the intelligence of Alaskans. They say the assessment is based on a “fantasy mine plan” and that “no mining plans exist,” claiming that EPA’s findings are invalid. If that were the case, the state of Alaska should immediately drop Pebble’s water rights application and priority date until there is a plan. Even National Geographic, a trusted and independent source, recently reported “most independent experts who have examined the preliminary plan believe it accurately reflects the nature of the deposit and its remote location” and that “the overall scale (of Pebble Mine) isn’t hard to predict.”
The recently released EPA Peer Review report showed that a majority of the independent science panel believed EPA’s mine scenario was realistic. One reviewer, UAF School of Fisheries professor Courtney Carothers, even said “the hypothetical mine scenario (used by the EPA) was closely based on a probable mine prospect under development. As such, it appears to be realistic and sufficient.”
The EPA is assessing Bristol Bay at the request of Alaskan tribes, fishermen and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. The EPA is an American agency operating at the request of Americans who are asking to protect American fishing jobs and families under the Clean Water Act — yet foreign mining companies still have the audacity to attack the responsibility of the Clean Water Act.
Once again, the Pebble Limited Partnership lies. They proudly show off their mining plan when it helps them with investment or legal hurdles but not when EPA uses it to enforce the Clean Water Act. Pebble cannot have it both ways, nor can Governor Parnell. Sustaining Bristol Bay fisheries for future generations cannot take a back seat to mining interests. This project would trade one resource for another, failing to uphold the constitution of Alaska. If sustainability is truly in Governor Parnell’s DNA, then it is time to walk the talk and stand with Alaskan’s on this issue. We deserve the truth.
• Brian Kraft is the owner of the Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge and Alaska Sportsman’s Bear Trail Lodge on the Kvichak and Naknek rivers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Katherine Carscallen is a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay. She can be reached at email@example.com.