Two Sides to Pebble   1 comment

If you post a balanced review of the Pebble Mine project, you are going to get some attention. The following is from some folks claiming to be Alaskans who oppose Pebble Mine. Pebble Mine is not without controversy and there are many Alaskans who oppose it — some of them quite irrationally.

“In poll after poll going back several years right up to the present, a majority of ALASKANS oppose this foreign-based Pebble Partnership and their proposed mine. Forget about all your boogeymen – the EPA, liberals, environmentalists, tree-huggers, anti-growth groups, etc. ALASKANS oppose this project, and we oppose it for a long list of reasons. Only someone who just plain doesn’t understand Alaska would compare our land mass with that of anything in the lower 48. A lot of this land is Native-owned, for starters. Also, the way our watersheds work – and the sheer acreage they cover and the anadromous fish runs they support, are not even remotely comparable to the water systems in the states referred to in the above article. You just plain can’t compare the situation up here with Texas.
Rather than post these pro-Pebble talking points, you might want to educate yourself as to why so many Alaskans oppose this mine. In many cases, we’re the very same Alaskans who are fine with Red Dog and other ventures. You might also want to study up on why the highest percentage of those opposed to Pebble is right in the very region this mine will be located. The lack of balance in your article is startling. We find it amazing that anyone is buying the Pebble talking points so thoroughly hook, line and sinker. An easy Google search will support the polling data we refer to.”

I was born here, raised here by parents who have been here a very long time, and my children plan to make their lives here as well. My folks came and stayed when services were few and far between, back when Anchorage was smaller than Fairbanks. Is that Alaskan enough for you?

Polls are all over the place with Pebble, but most show opposition by at least a bare majority. Of course, most of those polls have been conducted in Anchorage by media consultant Michael Dubke using a pool so small that the results are not trustworthy — seriously, one of the polls only spoke to 130 respondants. It was later revealed that Michael Dubke was far from neutral on the Pebble Project. In 2008, environemntal groups and some big-money highrollers who own private lodges on Lake Illiamna bankrolled an initiative on the August ballot. The Alaska Clean Water, Measure 4 received most of its funding from Bob Gillam, one of the wealthiest men in Alaska, who was strangely also invested in one of the Pebble Partnership’s subsidiaries. Of course, that makes me wonder. What possible reason could a very wealthy man like Mr. Gillam have for playing both ends against the middle? And can you really trust poll results from Michael Dubke, who was a funder of the initiative? Major funding in opposition to the initiative — which was clearly written to target Pebble, but would have affected mining throughout the state — was provided by NANA — a Native Corporation, which sort of makes you wonder about the claim that the Natives oppose Pebble. Actually, I don’t wonder because 10 of the 12 regional Native Corporations have filed protests against the EPA’s attempt to stall the exploration of the Pebble Prospect. Maybe only Natives who have been propagandized oppose Pebble. The initiative was defeated 57% to 43% in the largest August election turnout since Statehood. It will be back, though, I’m sure.

So, I re-read John Shively’s article to figure out what states the posters were speaking of as being significantly different from Alaska with its “anadromous streams (which just means that fish spawn in them). Maybe actually reading the post “Truth About Pebble” instead of just scanning it would help. The only time Shively mentions Texas or any other state is to give comparisons for visualizing acreage. Nowhere does he talk about mining in other states. He was strictly focused on correcting the widely held errors about Pebble and the science that has gone into the project so far.

The third article “Not Your Grandfather’s Mining Regulation” might also help factually challenged readers.

I first heard about the Pebble Prospect in the mid-to-late 1980s when I was working as a reporter. Given the crowd I ran with, I quickly became convinced that it was a bad idea. I had the impression that it was right on the shores of Lake Illiamna, the spawning grounds for Bristol Bay salmon. And that was the opinion I held for about 20 years.

Yes, 20 years! I had other things to do and there was no Internet back then, so unless a news story headed me in that direction — which it didn’t — I had no reason to do independent research. Like a lot of other people, I chose to believe the rhetoric rather than research the facts.

In the mid-2000s my daughter made friends with a girl down the street and I met the girl’s mother — who was a mining engineer for the Ft. Knox mine. I grew up playing in the tailings of the Fox dredge, so my opinion of mining wasn’t great. But Rebecca talked about rocks with passion, so I listened. She invited me to Ft. Knox for a tour and I got to see that this mine was not the Fox dredging at all. Our families visited Kennicott together — the men stayed in Chitina to fish for salmon while we ladies hiked the old copper mining town. Rebecca showed me the difference between that mine and Ft. Knox. Kennicott was built without a containment dam and there was no attempt at reclamation, while Ft. Knox was built with the best in modern technology.

And, then, Pebble came on my view screen again during the fight over the initiative. Of course, I asked someone I knew would  give me straight answers and Rebecca gave me quite an education. I learned that the Pebble deposit is — geographically speaking — not really near Lake Illiamna at all. It’s closest edge is 15 miles from the lake’s watershed, further than Ft. Knox is from some Interior rivers.

I also learned the most important part of this — Pebble was merely an idea in 2008. A few shovel loads of dirt had been analyzed. At that time no environmental studies had been done, no core drilling, no engineering. So, why, Rebecca asked, was the opposition so strong?

Since 2007, we’ve had the EPA announce without any corroboration that it thought Pebble was a danger to the environment. It then produced a report that was based on a study of opinion literature surveying the outcome of mining techniques from 50 years ago that are no longer applicable to the mining industry of Alaska or just about anywhere in the developed world. It has completely ignored the scientific date produced by the PLP.

PLP has yet to file a permit application with the State of Alaska, let alone the Army Corp of Engineers or the EPA, yet the EPA is seeking to prevent an application being filed. Why? As the third article in this series shows, Alaska has the most rigorous mining regulations in the 50 states and Pebble’s exploration has been monitored by those state regulators. Red Dog, Ft. Knox, and Pogo mines have been producing minerals for years without incident. The containment dam at Ft. Knox held up fine during the Denali Quake of 2002, which rattled Fairbanks at 7.9 magnitude. A thorough seismic analysis of the area around Lake Illiamna has yet to be done, but is required as part of the permitting process. No, that doesn’t mean that a meteor might not drop out of the sky and take out the containment dam at Pebble sometime in the future, but what are odds of that?

I’m not saying Pebble SHOULD be built. I’m saying Pebble should be studied and if PLP can show that it can be done safely, within a reasonable margin of risk, then the State of Alaska should decide to grant the permit. And the EPA — which has discredited itself on this issue by trying to impede the legal and lawful process — should step out because they’ve shown themselves highly biased and without regard to facts..

As for the Alaskans who don’t want Pebble — well, 57% of us seem not to want to stop Pebble’s preliminary studies.

Rather than buying the talking points of the Renewable Resources Coalition, how about taking a BALANCED approach and actually looking at the facts.

In fact, there are a number of independent science panels set to study the issue May 6-7 at University of Alaska Anchorage.

Since the readers who posted most likely live in Anchorage, it might be a worthwhile educational opportunity.

One response to “Two Sides to Pebble

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  1. I had to look after your comment. Interesting! I didn’t know about this, thanks for the post! 🙂


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