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Legislators: Large-scale mining can be done right

Some legislators show support for Pebble, others speak out against

Posted: February 14, 2014 - 1:07am

JUNEAU — Several state lawmakers — including the Senate president and House speaker — have told the owner of the proposed Pebble Mine that they believe large-scale mining “can be done right” in Alaska.

In a letter to Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., the legislators say Alaska is open to safe and responsible development.

“We appreciate the project team’s approach in making ongoing investments in environmental science and engineering studies prior to initiating permitting to ensure that any project at Pebble can co-exist with clean water, healthy fisheries and traditional ways of life,” the legislators wrote in the letter, dated Feb. 3 and released Wednesday.

“As elected leaders of the State of Alaska, we want you to know that Alaska is open to investment from those who seek to develop our state’s natural resources safely and responsibly, and in a manner that respects and benefits its citizens and our country for generations to come,” they wrote.

The massive gold-and-copper prospect is near the headwaters of a world-premier salmon fishery in southwest Alaska. The letter comes as critics of the mine urge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to act to protect the watershed. EPA, in a recent report, found large-scaling mining in the region posed significant risks to salmon.

The letter was signed by Senate President Charlie Huggins, Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, and Sens. Cathy Giessel and Kevin Meyer. Giessel chairs the Senate Resources Committee, and Meyer is co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

The letter also was signed by House Speaker Mike Chenault, and Reps. Eric Feige, Craig Johnson and Dan Saddler. Feige and Saddler are co-chairs of the House Resources Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Hollis French said those lawmakers do not speak for the full Legislature. He said there is deep division in opinion on Pebble.

French, D-Anchorage, said many Alaskans support other mine projects around the state but believe Pebble is “too dangerous a proposition to support.” He said he would be an “enthusiastic yes vote” on a ballot initiative that would require legislative approval for a large-scale metallic sulfide mining operation in the Bristol Bay region. French had proposed legislation similar to that a few years ago that went nowhere.

In a release, Saddler said Alaska has the resources to be a world leader in mineral development, “but we’ve seen the integrity of our permitting system unfairly maligned during public debate on Pebble.”

“It is important for state leaders to express our confidence in mining as a way to bring Alaskans jobs, revenue and economic diversity,” said Saddler, R-Eagle River. “This letter makes it very clear that Alaska supports and welcomes responsible resource development.”

Feige, R-Chickaloon, said Alaskans “are smart enough to do projects like this right. Let’s work together and find a way to make that happen.”

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Frank Heart
Frank Heart 02/14/14 - 09:37 am
Pebble would be the worlds

Pebble would be the worlds largest open pit mine.
With the worlds largest tailings dam.

Now think earthquake.

Karl Ashenbrenner
Karl Ashenbrenner 02/14/14 - 09:39 am
I dare

the legislature to come up with just one large scale mine that has no environmental issues.

Frank Heart
Frank Heart 02/14/14 - 09:45 am
"Alaska experiences a

"Alaska experiences a magnitude 5 earthquake every week"

this is why elections matter

2016 elections will be our last chance to get it right

James Coleman
James Coleman 02/14/14 - 10:11 am
Need the mines

I'm not for Pebble but Alaska needs the mines. We need an alternative revenue source since oil production is on the decline. Minerals is the future. Precious metals for battery production is first and foremost. Alloys for lighter metals being the second. These also produce good paying jobs with benefits so we don't have to dwell so much on minimum wage and entitlement programs.

Frank Heart
Frank Heart 02/14/14 - 10:35 am
Even small scale mines have a

Even small scale mines have a bad rap today because of all the people in our Government (national, state & city) working to shield the "industry". They shield the industry by blocking public input and by weakening regulations that protect the environment and the public. So, the public ends up not being able to trust their government or the industry.

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