Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pebble meeting brings much of same

Nunamta Aulukestai sponsors meetings
to educate communities about proposed mine

By Sean Pearson
Homer Tribune

Though some of the players involved were different, much of the information regarding the feasibility and impacts of the Pebble Mine project on Bristol Bay fisheries and the Native Alaska subsistence lifestyle presented at last week’s community meeting at Islands and Ocean Visitor Center echoed similar concerns raised more than a year ago.

Nunamta Aulukestai, (Caretakers of Our Lands), is a consortium of eight village corporations that have combined to sponsor statewide community meetings to raise awareness of mining impacts on state resources.

According to Nunamta Aulukestai Executive Director Terry Hoeferle, the group invited community members to participate in presentations and a roundtable discussion in an effort to educate communities around the state on the impacts of Pebble’s plan to mine some 15 square miles for gold, copper and molybdenum. A similar meeting was held Thursday in Kenai.

More than 50 Homer residents turned out for the Wednesday meeting, which included presentations on mine permitting, the impacts of hard-rock mining, risks to fisheries and technical issues and concerns.

Bonnie Gestring, of Earthworks, spoke specifically on the impacts of hard rock mining, noting conclusions from a 2008 report to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage Office on acid mine drainage that found that, “... Acid mine drainage remains one of the greatest environmental liabilities associated with mining, especially in pristine environments with economically and ecologically valuable natural resources.”

Gestring also offered statistics from the Kuipers Maest Report that studied 25 mines around the world. Of those representative mines, Gestring reported that 76 percent polluted groundwater or surface water severely enough to exceed water quality standards.

“Worldwide, the mining industry has experienced two major tailings dam failures per year over the past 30 years,” Gestring noted from a 2002 study. “That’s just unacceptable.”

Dr. Carol Ann Woody also spoke on the risks to fisheries caused by hard rock mining, noting the effects of copper on salmon’s ability to sense direction by smell, thereby impacting their ability to return to spawn.

Pebble has indicated that many of its impact studies are not yet complete, and therefore, they cannot comment or speculate on what all those impacts might be.

“We’re committed to doing this the right way,” said Mining Coordinator Jack DiMarchi.

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