Reader expects more from Palin when it comes to mining

Posted: Tuesday, January 08, 2008

There are many Alaskans who are still waiting for our new, very popular governor to erase more of Frank Murkowski's legacy. With persistence and courage, Sarah Palin could be the best governor in Alaska's history.

The subject of this letter is scary. Those of us, who are conservation minded, but who also support responsible, accountable development in our great state, know many legislators, et al, still subscribe to Murkowski's "development at any cost" policies.

The Alaska mining industry does today what was done before Alaska was a state. It simply files mining claims and then begins to determine whether the claims are productive. Regarding the proposed Pebble Mine site, the extensive exploration of its claims already may have devastated the clean waters of many surrounding streams and aquifers.

The Pebble developers, with the tacit approval of the state of Alaska, have drilled many, many test holes over a broad area, interrupting the aquifers and alluvial springs, which feed the surrounding salmon streams with clean water. And the waste from these drillings is simply dumped on the tundra.

Subsequently, this waste will be spread further by rain and snow melt runoff into surface streams, lakes and ponds. And for the past two-plus years, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources has been waiting for the Pebble developers to file some kind of EIS (using Pebble data) and a mining permit application before considering whether there is an environmental problem.

Other important state issues notwithstanding, Gov. Palin and DNR Commissioner Tom Irwin should become personally more inquisitive about Pebble and other similar Alaska mining sites before irreversible damage is done.

It may be too late already. As they have done in their interface with the oil/gas producers, they should obtain independent, expert advice on cyanide leach mining of low grade ores.

Worldwide, the terrible legacy of this mining process is a very well-documented history (New York Times, "Behind Gold's Glitter," Oct. 24, 2005, 11 pp.) of irresponsible developers raping the mining sites and leaving the mess/cleanup to others.

This administration cannot claim plausible deniability of this legacy. We Alaskans are expecting much more from Sarah Palin than a continuing Frank Murkowski legacy.

We do not want Pebble to become the "Sarah Palin-Tom Irwin Open Pit Mine," which would corrupt the world's greatest wild sockeye fishery and irreversibly pollute some of the most pristine streams and lakes in Alaska.

Richard Hahn


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