EPA seeking comment on Pebble Mine
July 20, 2012
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Washington--The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released an assessment on the potential impact of mining development on Bristol Bay, Alaska, the site of the proposed Pebble Mine. The assessment is available online and is open for public comment until July 23.
It is based on the scenario of developing an open-pit mine that would process 2 to 6.5 billion metric tons of ore and require construction of an 86-mile haul road. If developed, Pebble, a project of Anglo American plc and Northern Dynasty, would be the largest open-pit copper and gold mine in North America.
According to the assessment, likely impacts of developing the Pebble Mine would include loss of 55 to 87 miles of streams used for spawning and rearing various types of salmon and removal of 2,512 to 4,287 acres of wetlands. It notes that if there was an accident at the mine, it would have immediate and severe impact on the salmon and long-term impacts on their habitat and production.
In addition, the assessment states that the part of the value of the Bristol Bay fishery, the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world, lies in the fact that it provides 14,000 full- and part-time jobs, though Pebble proponents have argued in the past that the mine would bring much-needed jobs to the area.
Since debate about the Pebble Mine project began about four years ago, a number of major jewelry retailers have spoken out on the issue, including Tiffany & Co. and Zale Corp. They are among the jewelers that signed the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge, vowing to boycott gold from the mine if the project ever comes to fruition.
Now, environmental protection nonprofit Earthworks is asking retailers to speak out again on this issue. Earthworks’ Bonnie Gestring, who monitors developments in the Northwest portion of the country for the organization, said jewelers can send a letter to the EPA encouraging the agency to use its Clean Water Act authority to restrict the disposal of mine waste into the waters and wetlands of Bristol Bay, an act that would prohibit the mine’s development.
Tiffany & Co. was the retailer that initially called the industry’s attention to the Pebble Mine, sponsoring a screening of the documentary Red Gold in 2008.
And it’s set to get more airtime in the near future. On July 24, the day after the EPA assessment closes for public comment, PBS Frontline is set to air a feature story on issue.