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Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon

‘Pebble could pollute perfect, porous habitat’

ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS COMPASS: Other points of view

By JACK STANFORD

Published: July 25th, 2010 06:19 PM

Executives with Pebble Limited Partnership and some of their high-profile supporters, like former House Speaker Gail Phillips, have recently made misleading statements about the location and potential impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.

They stated in public forums that Pebble is not located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay and that it would only affect about two streams out of some 42 similarly-sized streams in the project area, thus creating the false impression that this enormous copper and gold mine would cause minimal harm to the habitat of Bristol Bay’s great salmon fishery. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The argument that this giant mineral deposit is not in the headwaters of the Nushagak and the Kvichak Rivers relies on a dim notion that the headwaters is only the single stream in a watershed that is farthest from the ocean. Any thinking person knows that surface and ground waters flow downhill anywhere in a watershed, not just from the stream that’s farthest from the ocean. As someone who has taught river ecology for 40 years, I know that the headwaters are where small streams first start to flow throughout a watershed.

I began my career in 1967 on the shoreline of Alaska’s largest king salmon producing river, the Nushagak, near Ekwok. My job was to sit on a tower above the river and count the number and species of salmon swimming underneath to reach spawning grounds in the headwaters of the Nushagak. Sockeye, chum, chinook, pink and coho streamed by, sometimes faster than I could count them. Since then, I have worked in rivers around the world exploring how they create habitat for salmon and trout.

Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, and it’s a testament to the thoughtful management policies of the State of Alaska that it has remained so. The key to the high productivity of sockeye in Bristol Bay is the habitat, especially the abundance of clean lakes and the intimate connection between water flowing underground and at the surface. Bristol Bay is an inherently wet, porous place, where water moving between the ground and the surface provides the perfect place for salmon eggs to develop.

It is simply wishful thinking to assume that the Pebble prospect can be developed without long-term impacts on Bristol Bay salmon. Pebble would necessarily destroy salmon-bearing headwater streams outright and would very likely pollute many more. This has happened time and again with sulfide mines around the globe, and Pebble would be one of the largest and likely the most destructive headwaters removal mine ever conceived.

Any pollution from Pebble wouldn’t just affect salmon near the mine site; it would travel easily downstream, through surface and groundwater. In fact, the porous nature of the Bristol Bay watershed that makes it such a great producer of salmon also makes it especially vulnerable to the kind of pollution that is caused by copper sulfide mining.

In the end, a project like Pebble would put all of the salmon downstream from the site at risk; this means no less than all of the fish that return to and rear in the Nushugak, the Kvichak, Lake Iliamna and the vast majority of their tributaries. A mine of this magnitude is not just about the mine site and the pollution that could emanate from it, it’s also about the broader cumulative effects, whether it’s the haul roads that cross stream after stream and open up the entire area, leaks from the slurry pipelines or the multitude of mining claims whose owners stand ready to develop more mines if Pebble becomes a reality.

As an expert on rivers, I can say with authority that Bristol Bay is in nearly the same situation that faced the great salmon rivers in the Lower 48 before their salmon were lost to development, dams, pollution and other factors. The only real difference for Bristol Bay is that the decision can be informed by history.

On the other hand, wishfully thinking that you can have it all — a mining district and a thriving fishery — will take Bristol Bay down the same road as so many once-great salmon rivers.


Jack A. Stanford is a professor of ecology at the University of Montana.

Read more: http://www.adn.com/2010/07/25/1380983/pebble-could-pollute-perfect-porous.html#ixzz0uozjEvjj

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Fort Knox tailings dam

‘Polluted water spilled at Fort Knox Gold Mine’

Associated Press – May 7, 2010 12:54 PM ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – A 2-acre area at the Fort Knox Gold Mine near Fairbanks is being dug up to remove pollution from a spill of water contaminated with a low concentration of cyanide.

The Department of Environmental Conservation told KTUU that most of the 300,000-gallon spill Wednesday was contained within a building. But, about 35,000 gallons flowed onto a gravel road and parking lot within the site.

The ‘what ifs’ of a similar spill occuring if Pebble Mine is approved would be catastrophic. Even tiny amounts of cyanide leaking into the saturated ground of Pebble would eventually find its way to the headwaters of fertile salmon spawning waters.

Keep in mind, Pebble will mine for gold as well as copper and molybdenum. One of the processes that will most likely be used to extract the ore from fine-ore bearing rocks will be to use xanthate floatation. This method of hard rock mining produces metal concentrates and billions of tons of waste rock based on Pebble’s projected size estimate. The waste rock has a label called PAG or potentially acid generating material. The PAG has the guaranteed effect of generating acid sulfides (i.e., sulfuric acid) when exposed to oxygen.

The processing chemicals of xanthates and *cyanide (*if cyanide extraction is used for removing gold from ore bearing rock as in Fort Knox’s processing method) and other metallic acid sulfide will be present in the billions of tons of tailings waste and would need to be ‘contained’ behind huge man-made earthen dams. The dams will need to be maintained from failure and the waste rock will need to be immersed under water forever. If the waste rock is exposed to air, the abundant oxygen levels will speed up the acidification process.

All of the above information about waste-rock tailings is just one potential scenario the Pebble Partnership may employ. Most of the higher quality ore-bearing rock is located deep within in an area labeled Pebble East. The most likely method for ore extraction in deep underground mines are by way of block caving. In this type of mining, ore-bearing rock is removed via an underground caving method on an industrial scale. In block caving, the method after ore-bearing rock is extracted is to induce collapse. The after-effect of the collapsing ground from above is an inevitable entry of water and oxygen which then is exposed to the waste rock thereby leading to acid sulfide decomposition on a grand scale. What results are high levels of acid sulfide deep underground with the high probability of mixing with and contaminating groundwater.

We cannot put our faith in foreign-owned corporations to protect our entire Bristol Bay region. One look at the BP oil rig explosion and subsequent ongoing massive oil spill is a testament to how even an established foreign-owned corporation doing business in North America is prone to a major failure of epic proportions.

There is no reason to justify cataclysmic risk for such an isolated, momentary reward.

 

FORT KNOX vs PEBBLE MINE 1

TARGET METALS

FORT KNOX – Gold Mine

PEBBLE MINE – Copper Mine w/ Gold and Molybdenum

 

PRODUCTION RATE

FORT KNOX – 36,000 – 50,000 tons/day

PEBBLE MINE – 100,000 – 200,000 tons/day

 

TAILINGS

FORT KNOX  – 200 million tons

PEBBLE MINE – 2.5 billion tons

 

WATER USAGE

FORT KNOX  – 4.9 cfs2

PEBBLE MINE – 114 cfs3

 

PROCESSING

FORT KNOX  – Cyanide Vat Leach

PEBBLE MINE – Xanthate Floatation

 

POTENTIALLY ACID GENERATING WASTE

FORT KNOX  – No

PEBBLE MINE – Yes

1This Fact Sheet was prepared by David Chambers, Center for Science in Public Participation, Feb 2007. It reflects information published by Kinross Gold (Fort Knox) and Northern Dynasty Mines (Pebble) from 2004 -2006.

Other articles:

‘Waste Disposal at the Pebble Mine’

http://www.ourbristolbay.com/waste-disposal.html

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I realize ‘dumbification’ is not an actual word but what’s worse, an individual making up a word or a mining conglomerate’s unmitigated attempts at brainwashing Alaskans in their push to develop Pebble Mine.

The truth is slapping us in the face about Pebble, the Pebble Partnership, and Anglo American Mining. Do not minimize the recent violations from Anglo and the Pebble Partnership. The unauthorized use of water is a strong indicator of things to come.  

The actions of Pebble to ‘decide’ to not apply for permits in 2010 are now crystal clear. Their pre-emptive ‘decision’ is a carefully planned fabrication to dilute the news about the State of Alaska’s order to suspend Pebble’s permits for their water-use violations. This action by Pebble is a blatant attempt to obfuscate the public. 

Clean water is the life-blood of the Bristol Bay region. The Pebble Partnership’s indifference to the region’s water resources and the State of Alaska’s permitting process is unacceptable.

Pebble won’t apply for development permits in 2010

JANUARY 21, 2010 – 7:11 PM

That’s the word from the Pebble Partnership during a recent public debate about the proposed mine in Dillingham. It’s a delay in the company’s previous permitting schedule.

Pebble mine developers to pay fine over water-use violation

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK

Published: February 12th, 2010 02:25 PM 

 The companies developing the massive Pebble mine prospect in Southwest Alaska have agreed to pay a $45,000 fine to the state for unauthorized use of water near its drilling sites.

State regulators said today they have suspended the permits needed for exploration at the Pebble copper and gold deposit. In a settlement agreement, the state has spelled out conditions that must be met before the permits are reinstated.

The settlement follows a state-led investigation that began after the Pebble Partnership reported the unauthorized water withdrawals in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The company said it discovered the violations last October. Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan signed the settlement agreement on Thursday.

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WEBBristol_RedDogMine

Red Dog Mine in the Northwest Arctic, Alaska. The proposed Pebble Mine
alone would produce 20x the ore output as Red Dog. According to the US
Environmental Protection Agency, Red Dog is the single-largest source of
toxic pollution in the United States. ©Northern Alaska Environmental Center.
(courtesy of Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska)

From today’s ADN Editorial Pages…

Is Alaska ready for Pebble?

The recent settlement by Teck Alaska over wastewater discharge violations at its Red Dog Mine and port near Kotzebue testifies to both the value of the Clean Water Act and the risk inherent in world-class mining operations.

For Alaskans, the settlement underscores doubts about the wisdom of exploiting the Pebble prospect, which has world-class gold and copper deposits near the headwaters of some of Bristol Bay’s richest salmon streams.

We’re told Alaska has strong mining laws that will ensure Pebble is benign. Experience with Red Dog suggests those laws have failed to prevent significant trouble….

Read the complete editorial here: http://www.adn.com/opinion/view/story/945224.html

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