RAPAPORT... Earthworks confirmed that more than 100 jewelers, representing more than $6 billion in annual sales, have pledged their support to protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine. The jewelers have either issued comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or signed the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge citing Earthworks' findings that the gold and copper mine would destroy the world’s largest wild salmon fishery in the area. The EPA extended its public comment period on the Pebble Mine until June 30.
The Pebble Mine is a project of Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals, and Earthworks and an EPA preliminary impact statement alleges that the open-pit operation would dispose of billions of tons of toxic waste into the watershed.
"When a foreign mining company lobbies Washington for permission to dig the largest open-pit mine in North America in the middle of one of Alaska’s most ecologically sensitive areas, it is clearly time for the White House to say 'no,'" said Brian Leber, the president of Leber Jeweler Inc. and a third generation jeweler. "The EPA has the authority to prevent this travesty, but they need to act now."
Earthworks' Bonnie Gestring said, "The American public doesn’t want to see the gold jewelry they buy come at the expense of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery. We commend the jewelers for their principled position."
In addition to jewelers, commercial fishermen in Alaska, the region's Native Tribes, Anglo investors, supermarkets and sportsmen have all called upon the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from mining by invoking section 404c of the Clean Water Act to restrict the dumping of mine waste into streams and wetlands that drain into the bay. The EPA’s impact statement found that 90 miles of streams could be blocked or eliminated, another 34 miles harmed by reduced stream flow, and 4,800 acres of wetlands destroyed under normal operation of the Pebble Mine.
Christina Miller, the director of Ethical Metalsmiths, said, "Pacific Northwest wild salmon are practically gone and the jobs that depended on them are gone, too. EPA knows Bristol Bay is headed down the same road if they allow the Pebble Mine to move ahead. That’s why our member jewelers urge the EPA to keep toxic mine waste out of Bristol Bay’s waters."