EPA report blasts Alaska open-pit mine plan

By Maria L. La Ganga

Los Angeles Times (MCT)

Published: Thursday, Jan. 16 2014 7:09 a.m. MST

“It’s the worst possible place to do this type of mining — the headwaters of the Bristol Bay fishery next to a national park,” said Melissa Blair, Alaska program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We can look at this technically and say the risks are too great and (mining) shouldn’t happen. It’s not worth trading the fishery.”

The EPA’s assessment notes that “up to 15 more mines could be developed if Pebble is allowed,” Blair said. “Pebble would be the tip of the iceberg. Next to the national park, an industrial mining district could be developed that’s much larger than just Pebble.”

Shoren Brown, executive director of Bristol Bay United, called the report “a smoking gun for the Pebble Mine.” The group is a coalition of sport and commercial fishing interests and Alaska Native corporations.

“The science that we’ve been waiting for, for three years, is now absolutely in,” Brown said. “The only question is what this agency and administration are going to do now that we have thousands of pages of documentation that says this mine will cause huge impacts to the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery.”

Jason Metrokin, chief executive of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., becomes well nigh poetic when he talks about the region. “God’s country” is how he describes it — home to moose and caribou, mountains and one of the nation’s largest lakes.

Between 40 million and 60 million salmon return to the region every year, he said. Native culture and well-being depend on them, and so does the commercial fishing industry.

“Large-scale hard-rock mining will have adverse impacts,” Metrokin said. “Can there be a future mine in the Bristol Bay region that doesn’t have adverse impacts? We don’t know. All we know is that there is one project proposed.”

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