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Read this insightful article written by Dr. Bruce Switzer in today’s Anchorage Daily News.

 

COMPASS: Other points of view

By BRUCE SWITZER

 

Published: August 18th, 2008 10:24 PM
Last Modified: August 18th, 2008 10:42 PM

 

Ballot Measure 4, “An Act to Protect Alaska’s Clean Water,” is focused on preventing the certain disaster threatening the world’s largest salmon run — the Pebble Mine. Nothing more, nothing less.

 

Its intention is simple: mining companies cannot destroy salmon spawning streams or discharge mine waste into these streams in amounts exceeding federal and state water quality standards. “Mixing zones” would be prohibited in salmon spawning streams. Despite our opponents’ rhetoric, we support mining in Alaska. Pebble is simply the wrong mine in the wrong place, and the risk to Bristol Bay is far too great.

This is why the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, made up of 200 Native villages, endorsed Ballot Measure 4.

 

Every sulphide mine in conditions remotely resembling Pebble has polluted the surrounding waters. No acid-generating mine has ever been built in an environment as economically important and ecologically significant as Pebble, let alone where the ground is saturated; the water table is at the surface, and where experts predict a quake of magnitude 7.7 or greater.

 

If this is not enough, consider that the companies involved in developing Pebble have no experience in northern mining. Anglo American has never planned or built a mine in North America, let alone under the extremely difficult conditions at Pebble. Their partner, Northern Dynasty, has never planned or built anything. In its 2004 annual report, Northern Dynasty stated that Pebble is probably uninsurable because of accidents, spills, earthquake and “catastrophe.” Yet these companies want to build the largest-open pit sulfide mine in North America with the largest tailings dam ever built to hold back the tailings.

 

Who will monitor this toxic waste after the mine is closed? Sooner or later, the ground will shake, and with the weight of the tailings dam and the naturally unstable geomorphology of the ground, billions of gallons of toxic tailings will slide down to the sea.

 

Our opponents want you to believe that this is not about Pebble. Why then has 53 percent of the $8.2 million they have thus far spent opposing us come from the Pebble Partnership? They say that Ballot Measure 4 does not even mention Pebble. Of course it doesn’t; by constitutional law it can’t. They say it was written and proposed in secret. As if the Alaskans who gathered 30,000 signatures did it secretly?

 

The mining industry has attacked us for receiving donations from Americans for Job Security, but South African, British, and Canadian companies who call themselves “Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown” have provided over 91 percent of the funds opposing us.

 

Our opponents claim Alaska salmon are already protected by the most stringent environmental regulations in the world. This is false. Before Gov. Murkowski, Alaska regulations were solid and reasonable, but not now. In fact, the Fraser Institute, a pro-mining archconservative think-tank, conducted a 2007 survey of international mining company executives and reported that of 117 states, provinces and countries, only nine had lower taxes and easier environmental regulations than Alaska, and that only one state in the Union was more friendly to mining — Nevada. Finally, consider this: all five operating hard rock mines in Alaska were permitted under pre-Murkowski regulations more rigorous than anything proposed under Measure 4.

 

If passed, new, large-scale metal mines may need to devote more attention to environmental protection during mine construction and operation. But, in most circumstances, already proven mining methods and technologies are available to accommodate the intention of Measure 4. Waste dumps can be set back from salmon streams, diversion ditches can capture toxic waste at the dump toe and divert it to a treatment plant, well-designed bridges can be built to cross streams instead of haphazardly installed culverts, and so on.

 

Ballot Initiative 4 does not shut down the mining industry. Existing mines are excluded; expansion of existing mines is excluded; and mines of fewer than 640 acres are excluded. If there is any question about this, the state can amend the act to strengthen the clear intent laid out in the initiative. Most mines could protect salmon streams — but not in Bristol Bay.

 

link: http://www.adn.com/opinion/story/497998.html

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The issue of Pebble Mine exudes emotions. The anti-Pebble Mine side sees the possibility of unimaginable consequences for future generations. The pro-Pebble side sees something quite different. To put it simply, the development side sees dollar signs. As Alaskans you must ask yourselves… at what cost?

 

A fight has been waged that pits billions of dollars of mineral wealth versus the priceless resources centered around the world’s largest salmon fishery. The impact of allowing such a massive mine at the headwaters of this salmon fishery is staggering. Acid sulfide toxic runoff is the norm for this type of mine. Throw in a natural disaster in this highly earthquake prone region and catastrophe will ensue.

 

The Jan, 2000 tailings dam failure in Romania that sent cyanide into 2000 km of rivers downstream of the dam was BUILT BY THE SAME FIRM (Knight-Piésold) that NDM and Anglo American has hired to design Pebble’s 2 massive tailings dams. http://www.wise-uranium.org/mdafbm.html …”The investigation concluded that the accident was caused by the inappropriately designed tailings dams, the inadequate monitoring of the construction and operation of those dams and by severe – though not exceptional – weather conditions.” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Dec.16, 2000).

 

There are many reasons to stand up against the development of this mine in this area. Undoubtedly you have seen or heard the flood of commercials on the air waves, newspapers, magazines and television. The various pro-Pebble Mine ads primarily feature just two reasons as to why we should mine Pebble. The first type of ad features some local Alaskans who are in support of the mine. Their claim is that they need the mine to economically survive in this time of skyrocketing costs.

 

After watching the next pro-Pebble ad such as the one described above STOP. Think about how long the local people will benefit. Think about what they and we must give up. Think about who will benefit the most.

 

The truth is that Alaska would receive just 0.1% in mining royalties while salmon in Bristol Bay brings in over 300 million/year in revenue to the state. Sport fishermen and hunters in the region bring in over 60 million/year to the state and local economy. Approximately 1,000 people will receive employment that may last 50 years. Consider that these 1,000 temporary jobs would jeopardize 5,000-10,000 permanent salmon fishing and tourism jobs should even a small amount of toxic run-off appear in the streams downriver from the mine. The thousands of sport-fishermen who spend millions each year on pristine once-in-a-lifetime trips will no longer come. Take all of this into account and consider the majority of the profits would go to the Canadian-owned Northern Dynasty Minerals and the South African-owned Anglo American mining conglomerate.

 

The estimated current total value of minerals of the Pebble Prospect is between $350-500 billion x 0.1% = 350-500 million / 50 years (approx. life of the mine) = just $7-$10 million/year in state royalties. This is only if current record-high commodity prices hold. The rest of the profits go to Anglo American (South Africa) and Northern Dynasty (Canada). Economically speaking, that’s $360 million/year from salmon (a renewable resource) versus $7-$10 million/year from Pebble Mine (a limited resource that has the potential to wipe out all of the salmon from the region)… The math just doesn’t add up.

 

The mine may last 40, 50 or 60 years. After which you have a massive hole in the ground and 2 equally massive earthen dams holding toxic-leeching mining by-products. Time and exposure to air and water only further oxidizes and makes more contaminants. Water has this funny thing of wanting to flow. Either down through the ground or down a gradient. Either helped by earthquakes which will de-stabilize the dams or by evaporation. There is NO WAY of permanently containing 2 large bodies of contaminated waste indefinitely.  

 

In truth, there are only a small portion of Native Alaskans that support Pebble Mine. The majority of Alaskan Natives stand firm against what they see as a direct threat to their way of life. Most know that salmon have and will sustain their way of life indefinitely. So long as we responsibly care for the areas surrounding the vital renewable resource.

 

The second claim the pro-Pebble side likes to throw around in their commercials is that the ‘anti-mining’ initiative is written in a way that will shut down all large mines in Alaska now and in the future. This claim is complete fear-mongering typical of a big money, foreign-owned mining company. These companies rely on their bottom-less pocket books to generate fear through propaganda. They bank on the hopes that the target (all Alaskans) will not research and vote based on fear. The fact of the matter is that Prop #4 was written to protect salmon. Specifically, #4 seeks to re-institute salmon protection measures that were erased by a mining lobby friendly Murkowski administration.

 

Recently, NDM and Anglo have financed commercials saying that voting for #4 is un-Alaskan. What gives the 2 foreign-owned mining companies the right to say who is un-Alaskan. Anglo American has one of the world’s worst environmental and human rights records. The mining companies are pouring upwards of $10 million in ads that smear and distort the fact that no mine of Pebble’s size has ever been successful in not polluting the environment. Given NDM and Anglo’s track record, why should we risk or believe otherwise at such a huge cost?    

 

The bottom line is that we have a duty to protect a salmon resource that can continue to provide food, jobs and tourism indefinitely. We as Alaskans must lead in this effort. Many in our local and state government and in our politically appointed positions are influenced by powerful lobbys. One can look no further than the disgrace of Veco and its dealings with both our state and national legislators. If the Clean Water Initiative fails and the mining company permitting process is allowed to proceed expect a swift approval from a Murkowski-diluted large scale mining permitting process from the Department of Natural Resources.

 

Can we rely on a foreign-owned company to direct how the future of our state will proceed? I for one am not willing to take that bet and am prepared to fight for a future with one less pebble in my wading boot.

 

VOTE TUESDAY, AUG. 26TH. YES ON #4. YES 4 FISH.

Please forward this link to as many people you know.Thank you.

 

Get involved:

http://www.renewableresourcescoalition.org/pebble_mine.htm

http://www.bristolbayalliance.com/index.htm

http://feltsoulmedia.wordpress.com/

 

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