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Pebble Mine ... risk versus reward

Posted: August 11, 2012 - 8:53pm

When it comes to the Pebble Mine project, most Alaskans are firmly rooted in one camp and their reasoning is based on politics, tradition and emotion.

We have heard the arguments again, and again, and again. One of the world’s biggest mines would be good for economics. But, the mine could be worse for the world’s best salmon fishery.

However, Peninsula residents now have a new lens through which to examine the Pebble Mine idea. This summer we saw our bread and butter — the Kenai River’s famous king salmon fishery — dip to a historic low.

Setnetters are skinny and broke from being beached. Fishing guides are considering other lines of work. Tourist-driven businesses took a big hit. All because the king salmon stock was so low the Alaska Department of Fish and Game decided to take extreme management measures.

How we suffered.

But remember, some fish still came and it appears as if we will have enough kings in the river to have a run in the future.

However, if Pebble Mine goes wrong, if dams built to hold the tailings and wastes break or leak, the effects could devastate the Bristol Bay region.

Our economy is stable enough that if the king run is bad, it hurts but it doesn’t destroy. In Bristol Bay, for the thousands who subsistence fish and otherwise depend on those runs, it would destroy — absolutely.

Stop and consider what would happen if there were no more fish in the Kenai River and no oil in Cook Inlet. Now you’ve got the picture.

Sound like we are painting a doomsday picture here? Well, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such an impact could occur and the world’s last great salmon fishery would be lost, perhaps forever.

So is it worth 100 years of jobs and $500 billion in copper, gold and molybdenum? What value does a renewable resource such as a salmon run of Bristol’s magnitude hold?

Even if Pebble was permitted and dug, would we want it there? Forever? The largest man-made hole on the planet? Remember, what’s dug up must be placed somewhere else and monitored forever to make sure contaminates don’t leak.

Now we have many folks in big cities and in the Governor’s office protesting the EPA’s involvement in the process. They’re happy to drive on roads paid for with federal dollars, but when someone from the government starts asking a few questions, they protest. 

We’d remind those Anchorage EPA protestors they have as much right to those resources as the folks on the Kenai Peninsula, in Juneau and for that matter Seattle, Chicago and New York. Why? Because if it fails, their world doesn’t change. There’s no cleanup for those folks. There’s no massive change of lifestyle and economics for them. They get up in the morning, kiss their spouse, and head to work like normal.

Not for Bristol Bay. 

So, let’s listen to the people who live there.

The bottom line is Pebble, as state of the art as it could be, with as many promises as the corporation is making, is still a risk in a land we shouldn’t be taking chances on.

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Northerner 08/13/12 - 09:52 am
"must be placed somewhere

"must be placed somewhere else and monitored forever to make sure contaminates don’t leak"--please keep in mind that EVERY mine containment area liner leaks, every single one, so its not monitoring forever to make sure they don't leak but rather monitoring and treating forever because they all leak!

Leaving a huge dump of acid generating spoils in the headwaters of any stream should be unacceptable, but leaving it in the headwaters of the worlds largest salmon run is immoral.

TheKenaiKid 08/13/12 - 09:54 am
Interesting take

Not sure why 100 years of jobs and $500 billion in precious metals is so easily brushed aside when you consider that, over 100 years, the value of all the salmon caught in Bristol Bay is likely to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-10 billion. Also, no mention was made of the impact such a mine could have on the economy of the City of Kenai (where, I believe, the Clarion is located), which stands to gain a number of high-paying jobs as a jumping-off point for Pebble. Seems like an odd position for the local paper to take — especially since the permitting process is not yet complete.

MathewCannava 08/13/12 - 02:32 pm
Perfect summation

All large mines's no one's just matter how Shively tries to spin it.

Everyone wants jobs and a steady economy, but some things aren't worth the a way of life, the largest sockeye salmon resource in the world...and a giant, ugly industrial pit in the middle of the Lake Clark/Illiamna region...and a giant lake filled with metallic debris toxic to our wildlife.

It's not worth the small number of jobs for a finite number of years. Especially given that Pebble has already shown they will lie to promote their interests.

...Shively himself lied to a grand jury....

The majority of the people of the region do not want Pebble. They said if the people didn't want it, they wouldn't build it. They press on.

Redbrdee 08/15/12 - 02:40 am
No net benefit to Alaskans from Pebble

Kenai Kid: The value of the minerals taken from the proposed Pebble mine has nearly nothing to do with us. The taxes are too low, the long term costs to us too great. The gain in employment is dwarfed by what will probably be lost. The companies involved do not want to commit to take care of the mess after they are done in about fifty years and the poisons in the tailing mines will have to be dealt with by the federal and state governments ...forever. As for the permit process, it is worthless. Why do you want so much profit for foreign corporations and so much damage for Alaskans? The global mining industry will do more damage to Alaska than oil, other mining (except coal), commercial fishing, or tourism and with almost no benefits to the state. Almost all of that money you imagine goes to their stockholders. It will create few decent jobs for the people who live here now. It is not Prudhoe Bay. Also because China has overbuilt its infrastructure there is unlikely to be much of a market for the stuff. There is so much copper stockpiled there that they don't know what to do with it. (Google this subject).

Thanks to the Peninsula Clarion for your pro-Alaska stand on the Pebble mine.

TheKenaiKid 08/16/12 - 12:37 pm

I never said I "wanted" anything. Personally, I'm leaning against the mine. That has nothing to do with my above opinion. As opposed to the vast majority of people commenting on this issue, I would rather let all the facts come out rather than jumping to prepackaged conclusions force-fed to me by professional environmentalists and industry lackeys. The problem I have is that we live in a society in which due process (rather than mob mentality) is supposed to govern how we move forward. Fear-mongering, distorted information and speculation should have no place in a sensible debate. Unfortunately, they're the only things being used to decide this particular issue.

spwright 08/16/12 - 01:41 pm
Anti-Pebble Campaign

Who is Funding this multi-million dollar campaign against the
Pebble Mine Project ?
1000's upon 1000's of dollars being spent to turn Alaskans against the Pebble Mine Project.

A local Wall Street Investment Banker is doing the Funding of this Anti-Pebble Project.

I will NEVER TRUST anything spoken by a Wall Street Investor.

To be Honest, I sincerely believe that the Permitting Process will bring forth the Truth on this issue.

SPW in Sloooooowdotna

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