RAPAPORT... The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final report on Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, where the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine is located, and concluded that mineral extraction could have a devastating impact on the region's wild salmon fishery, among other concerns.
“There are some places where mining cannot be done without forever damaging landscapes, wildlife, businesses and communities,” said Michael J. Kowalski, the CEO of Tiffany & Co. “Bristol Bay is one such place. We, along with many of our fellow jewelers, urge the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to safeguard Bristol Bay and the communities and fishery it supports.”
More than 100 jewelers have expressed support for protecting the Bristol Bay watershed by stopping the Pebble mine development. In 2013, Anglo American withdrew from its partnership with Northern Dynasty Minerals to build the Pebble mine, while Alaskan tribes along with commercial fishermen have petitioned the EPA to use its power under the Clean Water Act’s section 404(c) to protect the fishery by restricting harmful mine waste disposal.
Bristol Bay is reported to be the largest sockeye salmon fishery, producing almost half of the world's supply and it employs 14,000 full- and part-time workers. The vast region is also home to several native Alaskan tribes. The EPA report didn't address a specific mine; however, it concluded that there would be a possible impact to the environment from any mining activity in the region.
Luki Akelkok, the chair of Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of 10 Bristol Bay tribes and villages, said, “It’s time for the EPA to take immediate steps to protect the fishery, the Alaska native communities who rely on it as their primary source of food and the 14,000 jobs that depend on it.”
The final EPA study, which followed a first draft comprised of similar conclusions three years ago, stated that even under the best mining conditions, extracting deposits of gold and copper would destroy up to 94 miles of salmon streams, 5,350 acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds and devastate 33 miles of streams through reduced flows, resulting in reduced salmon production. The Pebble mine would also generate water pollution that would require capture and treatment long after mining concludes.
Jona Kron, a senior vice president of Trillium Assets Management, said, “As investors, we support a responsible, science-based approach to resource development. Anglo American’s withdrawal from the project highlights significant business and investment risks. We urge the EPA to take immediate steps to initiate the 404(c) process to protect the fishery and provide regulatory clarity.”
Jennifer Krill of Earthworks, a group that launched the No Dirty Gold campaign, said, “The fate of our nation’s greatest salmon fishery, and all the jobs that depend on it, now rests with the EPA. The EPA needs to follow the science and protect this unparalleled renewable resource.”