Village opposes Pebble Mine

The fact New Stuyahok sent representatives to meeting doesn't mean it supports Northern Dynasty Minerals

Posted: Monday, June 12, 2006

New Stuyahok sits on the Nushagak River, 70 air miles north of Dillingham. It is the biggest community on the Nushagak River and consists of 550-plus tribal and community members.

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One hundred percent of our community members and the three main village entities - New Stuyahok Traditional Council, City of New Stuyahok and Stuyahok Limited - are all in opposition to Northern Dynasty Minerals' proposed Pebble Mine and to any other mining companies that want to develop in the area. These entities all adopted and signed resolutions to that effect.

Our way of life and our lives are being jeopardized especially by Northern Dynasty Minerals. If they succeed in getting this mine, it will be one of the biggest mines ever developed in the United States. They have promised lots of jobs, lots of opportunities and much more to the residents of the Bristol Bay region. They promise that our land, its rivers and its inhabitants, won't be jeopardized. They say the mine will make lives better for our people, whose main livelihood depends on what our habitat can provide, especially salmon.

Bruce Jenkins, chief executive officer for Northern Dynasty Minerals, and his constituents have said that state and federal laws require mining companies to get community involvement from residents affected by a proposed mine. Because New Stuyahok will be the first village to be affected on the west side of the proposed Pebble project, Northern Dynasty Minerals made presentations and conducted studies. The company's message: Northern Dynasty Minerals will have the safest mining operation because of its technological analysis of all the data collected by the surveys and studies.

Many village leaders and appointed representatives were invited to attend their so-called leadership meetings to learn about the Pebble Mine, where it'll be located, and how it's going to operate. We were told, in effect, to leave the company alone and let due process take its course.

During the first few meetings in our communities, 180 questions were asked. Northern Dynasty Minerals answered not even close to half of these questions, and when they did, lots of the answers did not match previous answers. Northern Dynasty Minerals states that some of the questions could not be answered due to needing technological analysis.

The company set up leadership meetings in Anchorage. New Stuyahok, with all its tribal members, shareholders and residential members, want everyone to know that we sent one or two representatives to learn about the Pebble Mine because it is foreign to us. We did not send representatives to support Northern Dynasty Minerals or the mining industry. We sent them to support our cause, which is "no mining allowed."

Northern Dynasty Minerals has been using these contacts as examples of community involvement. Our representatives were told that, with their involvement and guidance, Northern Dynasty Minerals will do its best. The company wants us to believe that with our involvement, it is OK to develop the mine.

We want everyone to know that we - as governments, corporations and individuals - are 100 percent opposed to any mining activity in our region. We have not given permission to Northern Dynasty Minerals or any other mining company to use our representatives as community-involved constituents.

Jenkins and his constituents have promised that once the mine is developed and an accident occurs, the residential, commercial, subsistence and even sports users affected will be compensated.

Now come on. Realistically, who can do such a thing? For 10 to 50 years? Our very own governments - local, state and federal - can't do that for us.

Following up on mining news in the world, an article put out by BBC World News reads, "Mining happens to only poor countries." Now, are we a poor country? To many of our Nushagak-area communities, we consider ourselves to be the luckiest and richest people in the world. Do other places in Alaska, the United States and even other countries have what we have?

The mining companies do not have any guarantees or do not even have environmentally sound data to prove that it is safe. Their only guarantee comes from technological analysis.

Are you all aware that no place in the world with open-pit mining has not had major environmental problems? In fact, the state of Wisconsin made a very clear stance on this issue. It developed laws saying that until the mining industry can prove by example, and not by technological analysis, that there will be a moratorium on new mining permits.

The state of Montana had completely outlawed open-pit mining because of the extensive damage that had been done to its rivers - not to mention its fish, game and habitat.

Alaska has rivers, streams and lakes that are so pristine that other states, such as California, have requested that a pipeline be built so they can buy our water.

We need to learn from those mistakes that have been allowed to happen in other states and follow by example. We cannot let our renewable resources and our people's livelihood be jeopardized.

• Lucy Weedman is a resident of New Stuyahok.

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