Prof Deborah Farris
USEM 102, CRN 1665
June 4th 2012
Pebble Mine an Environmental Disaster waiting to happen
A world away from everyday businesses and corporate office cubicles, commercial salmon fishing in Alaska isn’t the ordinary boat ride. Every season, the Alaskan salmon fisherman put their lives at stake in hopes of good pay and the experience of a lifetime. The populations and economy of every fishing village in Bristol Bay flourish during the salmon season. Salmon bring in people from literally, all corners of the globe. The excitement, raw adventure, and potential for a great compensation that commercial fishing possesses is something very few occupations offer. Fishing is a gamble, a new kind of reality. Fisherman are gambling and putting everything on the line: their sanity, body, and life. Only when they’re out on that 32-foot long fishing vessel do they realize how insignificant and small they really are in the middle of Bristol Bay. Fishermen are at the mercy of Mother Nature and all she can throw and propel at you. Commercial fishing in Alaska is not for the weak minded or faint of heart. Presently, this extraordinary fishing world has come under grave danger. The environmental risks that the proposed Pebble Mine has on the Bristol Bay region concluded that the mine could have impacts of devastating proportions on the regions ecosystem and salmon runs (“Minning Information Session”). This highly controversial proposed open-pit mine is stirring a ruthless environment vs. development war. However, locked away in the pristine waters of Bristol Bay, lies an incredibly valuable resource known as Red Gold. The Bristol Bay watershed claims top spot, as the world’s greatest natural commercial salmon fishery, while Red Gold, also known as Alaskan salmon, is internationally renowned. Meanwhile, also located at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, sits a massive deposit of gold, molybdenum, and copper. If allowed to occur, Pebble Mine would be the largest open pit gold mine in the world. Nonetheless, because of the proposed Pebble mine’s size, location, and geochemistry, there is an extremely high risk that the mine would pollute and destroy the Bristol Bay watershed, forever crippling the entire region. Faced with yet another controversial dilemma, would the glory of Pebble Mine and all it promises be worth the risk of destroying an ecosystem and devastating an entire region and culture of people who solely depend on their natural environment? Northern Dynasty Mines and Anglo American partnership have proposed to develop an open-pit mine near Iliamna, Alaska, known as the Pebble Mine. This proposed mine site straddles the headwaters of two great salmon producing drainages, the Kvichak and the Nushagak Rivers (Hauser). Anglo American and Northern Dynasty goals include respectful protection of the environment and traditional ways of life, sustainable infrastructure and economic development, and environmentally responsible co-existence with the surrounding fisheries, wildlife and ecosystem (Respectful Resource Development). The preliminary mine plans claim to keep mine wastes, toxins and contaminants sealed up behind earthen dams so that water and land will be virtually untouched. Consequently, intended objectives and goals regarding the environment within the mining industry are to be taken with a grain of salt. One doesn’t have to be a tree-hugging environmentalist to understand the disastrous environmental record of mines and the grim reality of the impact they have on the environment. What puts emphasis on Pebble Mine and presents an even greater risk is the enormity of the mine. The projected pit size of the mine is two miles wide and over 2,000 feet deep. The mine waste would require two giant tailing ponds enclosed by four earthen dams, the largest measuring 4.3 miles long and 740 feet high.(Pebble Mine (Copper/Gold Prospect)). The dams should be lined with a synthetic liner to help prevent off site...