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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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Judy Hodel
Judy Hodel 02/14/14 - 02:51 pm
Recent Mining US Mining History- add Pebble to List

Red Dog zinc and lead mine, northwest Alaska, still in operation. Zinc contamination reached 600 times the health standard. Operator Teck Cominco has been cited for 134 separate permit violations. Five years ago the National Park Service reported concentrations of toxic metals along the haul road as high as the most polluted industrial sites in Eastern Europe. Despite estimates that reclamation and water treatment will cost $100 million, the company has posted a bond of only $11 million.

Zortman-Landusky gold and silver mine, north-central Montana. Extensive surface and groundwater contamination. More than a dozen cyanide-waste spills, including 52,000 gallons that poisoned drinking water supplies. (A mine employee reported the spill after he detected the smell of cyanide in his home tap water.) Serious acid drainage to aquatic habitat occurred when sulfide ores were extracted. In 1998 Zortman-Landusky Mines filed for bankruptcy, sticking taxpayers with $33 million in reclamation costs. Effluent treatment will be required in perpetuity.

Summitville gold mine, in the San Juan Mountains of south central Colorado. The company, Galactic Res-ources Limited, went bankrupt in 1992. Cyanide, heavy metals, and acid runoff from disturbed sulfide-bearing deposits of the sort that abound in Alaska's Ring of Fire caused a massive fish kill in Terrace Reservoir and sterilized 17 miles of the Alamosa River of aquatic life. Cleanup of this Superfund site will cost taxpayers a minimum of $235 million.

Grouse Creek gold and silver mine, central Idaho adjacent to the largest wilderness complex in the contiguous US. In 1993, still in construction phase, it caused a major landslide, burying 100 yards of critical habitat for federally listed chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout. Less than a year later the tailing impoundment sprang a leak. Operator, Hecla Mining, was cited for 250 toxic pollution violations. The Forest Service was obliged to post signs along Jordan Creek: "Caution, do not drink this water." In 1999, with a toxic lagoon breach imminent, the Forest Service issued a "time critical removal action." The bond posted by Hecla was $7 million, which has left taxpayers with a cleanup cost of $53 million for this Superfund site.

Gilt Edge gold and silver mine, west central South Dakota, in drainages of municipal water supplies for the Black Hills. Operated from 1988 to 1996 by Brohm Mining, the mine poisoned Strawberry and Bear Butte creeks with cyanide, and acid runoff wiped out fish in Ruby Gulch Creek. The $6 million reclamation bond didn't even cover a year's worth of reclamation and treatment costs for this Superfund site

Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 02/15/14 - 07:46 am
Let's get it straight

Shipping, airlines , roads, autos, healthcare, agriculture, fishing, food service,.........................Anything from a mine required? You betcha!!

Lorraine Murray
Lorraine Murray 02/15/14 - 12:13 pm
How to get it

How to get it straight.
Protecting our bio-sphere "where all living organisms exist" as our first priority.
Then comes shipping, airlines, roads, autos, profits..... we can't have everything.

Owen Beaver
Owen Beaver 02/15/14 - 09:37 pm
Fasting for Jesus!

Just do your biosphere for a day--I dare you! Remember the drugs came in on a plane --legal or otherwise.

Karl Ashenbrenner
Karl Ashenbrenner 02/17/14 - 09:25 am

at some of the names used in commentary, methinks the Empires attempt to get rid of pseudonames/avatars has failed. Folks seem to be signing up with made up names....just saying.

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