Yesterday, the EPA announced that it is extending the comment period another 30 days, until June 30, 2013, on its study of the impacts to Alaska' Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine.
Additional delays in the process can't change the overarching problem - this is the wrong mine in the wrong place.
Alaska's Bristol Bay is the last stronghold for wild salmon in these numbers. Millions upon millions of wild salmon return to the rivers and streams that feed Bristol Bay every year, like no other place on earth. It's an irreplaceable, renewable resource. It can continue to supply 14,000 jobs a year, and provide nearly half of the world's supply of sockeye salmon as long as salmon habitat is protected.
A heartfelt thank you to Montana's Governor Bullock, who recently took the hatchet to SB 347, a terrible bill that would have allowed mining companies to divert unlimited amounts of water from Montana rivers and streams.
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Chas Vincent (R-Libby), was a gift, wrapped in a big red bow, for the mining industry -- particularly underground mines. To keep the underground tunnels dry during mining, the mines pump out groundwater, and lower the water table. This eliminates water from the overlying streams and rivers that rely on that groundwater for flows through the year.
This week we released a report that exposes, for the first time, the amount of contaminated water that will be generated by mining companies every year, in perpetuity.
After a lengthy review of government and company data, we discovered that 40 existing mines will generate 17-27 billion gallons of water every year, for centuries. It's a staggering amount - enough to fill 2 trillion water bottles - which would reach to the moon and back 54 times!
The highly anticipated study is out. The EPA has just released a new draft of its study on the impacts of the Pebble Mine to the Bristol Bay fishery – the largest wild salmon fishery on Earth. The kicker?
The new draft identifies even larger impacts to the salmon fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine than before.
At the maximum sized mine studied by the EPA (6.5 billion tons), the study finds that even under routine operation, the mine would likely result in:
- the loss of up to 90 miles of streams from the mine footprint alone,
- harm to up to 35 miles of streams from reduced stream flow, and the
- loss of 4,800 acres of wetlands.
On February 14, Senators Wyden and Merkley re-introduced the Chetco River protection bill as part of their new Oregon Treasures Act.
“The lands addressed in these bills are among Oregon’s most pristine areas,” Senator Wyden said. “These areas provide habitats to countless species of plants and animals, economic benefits to surrounding communities and recreational opportunities for Oregonians and visitors throughout the nation. Senator Merkley and I will continue working with our colleagues to do all that we can to preserve these areas for generations to come.”
Once in a while an opportunity comes along, where all the pieces come together just at the right moment. This is that moment for Oregon's Chetco River. Despite its wild and scenic designation, the Chetco is still vulnerable to mining under the 1872 mining law, which prioritizes mining over all other land uses.
The Forest Service recently released an environmental assessment (EA) that makes it clear that suction dredge mining would threaten the outstanding values for which the area was designated - fisheries, water quality and recreation. It emphasizes that these values are critical to the local economy, and they can only be protected through a mineral withdrawal.
This week, residents of a small town in Canada are being warned not to drink from the local water supply because of a ruptured tailings dam at a former copper mine in Newfoundland. Yes, another tailings dam has failed.
It's a stark reminder of the risks of the proposed Pebble Mine, where the mining corporations want to build tailings dams, which must be managed in perpetuity, to store up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste at the headwaters of our nation's most valuable wild salmon fishery.
The mining industry says that current technology can prevent failures. But the science doesn't support their claims. A recent report has determined that in the ten years since there was a major effort to investigate tailings dams (ICOLD 2001), the failure rate has remained relatively constant - at one failure every eight months. These dam failures are not limited to old technology or to countries with scant regulation. Previous research points out that most tailings dam failures occur at operating mines, and that 39% of the tailings dam failures worldwide occur in the United States, significantly more than in any other country.
Alaska's Bristol Bay supplies roughly half of the world's wild sockeye salmon, and supports 14,000 jobs. This is a renewable resource that will continue to provide food and jobs for our nation as long as the fishery is protected. There is no data to demonstrate that tailings dams can withstand the test of time for mine waste storage in perpetuity. Bristol Bay is the wrong place to try.
The rivers and streams of Bristol Bay, Alaska support the largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world, and supply nearly 50% of the world’s commercial sockeye salmon.
Every year, millions of wild salmon make the epic journey from the ocean to the rivers and streams that feed Bristol Bay to reproduce -- supplying the world with healthy seafood, a feast for hungry bears, eagles and beluga whales, and roughly 14,000 jobs along the way.
Now, plans for a massive open pit, copper and gold mine, known as the Pebble Mine, put the future of the fishery in question. If developed, the Pebble Mine would be the largest open pit mine in North America, straddling the headwaters of two of the most important salmon spawning rivers.