Alaska Gold: PBS Frontline on Pebble Mine

Photo by simonmjowitt. Some rights reserved.

Bristol Bay is a beautiful region in Southwest Alaska, home to glacial ponds, mountain ranges, and some of the largest runs of salmon in the world. It’s also home to massive amounts of porphyry copper, gold, and molybdenum mineral deposits.

These natural resources haven’t gone unnoticed. The minerals in the so-called “Pebble deposit” are on land owned by the state of Alaska, but the rights to those deposits are owned by the Pebble Partnership, an Alaska limited partnership formed in 2007 between Anglo American PLC and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

The Pebble Partnership is currently in the pre-feasibility and pre-permitting research stage of developing a mine to extract the estimated $300 billion worth of recoverable metals. As part of this research process, a few years ago the Pebble Partnership commissioned an Environmental Baseline Document characterizing the “physical, biological and social environment as it exists today.”

Using their own research earlier this year, the EPA released an assessment of potential impacts to the area from mining operations. The assessment projected a major loss of fish habitat, the high probability of a damaging pipeline break, and the continuous threat of acid mine drainage, but the developers were quick to strike back, calling the study “scientifically flawed, inappropriately timed and politically motivated.”

Such possible environmental impacts make up the bulk of opponents’ concerns. Proponents, on the other hand, see the exploration and development as a chance to create jobs in the area and reduce American dependence on foreign raw materials. To fully explain the controversy of Pebble Mine, however, you’d need a full-length documentary – so I’m handing the reigns over to PBS Frontline, which has taken on the growing battle in Bristol Bay in the documentary Alaska Gold.

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Alaska Department of Natural Resources has more links to related information.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Smokin' Joe on August 29, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Yes, it’s a real shame about them fish in Bristol Bay! People have been killing them for hundreds of years. They kill millions of salmon every year, but they just can’t seem to destroy them. They’ve tried fish wheels, hooks and lines, and yes, even miles and miles of nets, but they just don’t seem to be able to wipe them out. They even tried poisons like miles and miles of lead as sinkers, they painted their boats with poisonous lead paint, let the canneries rot and rust, oil, lead paint, tar by the barrels and pouring toxic waste into the waters, used gas and diesel engines that puke out toxic waste and dumped their waste oil in the Bay. The fishermen and women too have been dumping their waste and garbage over the river banks for over a hundred years. But try as they might, the fish just keep coming back. What are they to do? Even if they could succeed for one year, fish run in several year cycles so they will just keep coming back.
    The fishermen could try bringing the Pebble Mining group in and really finish the job but they might find out the Pebble people might educate them to adopt clean environmental ways and then their mission to kill all the fish in Bristol Bay would be for naught. And then, the jobs might also give them some good income and provide work year round and provide retirement income for years to come. The fishermen may have to get off welfare and food stamps in the devastating years when the fishing is poor. Oh my, what to do?


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