Protect Bristol Bay from Mining

June 26, 2019

 

PCC submitted comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, criticizing its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Bristol Bay, located in Southwest Alaska, is one of the last great wild salmon fisheries left in the world, with more than 40 percent of the world’s wild sockeye coming from the bay. Yet for over a decade, Bristol Bay’s fishing industry and communities have been overshadowed by a proposed Pebble Mine project — a massive open pit mine to extract gold and low-grade copper ore in a seismically active, wet and porous region at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.

In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded a three-year ecological risk assessment as required under the Clean Water Act (CWA) permitting process and released a report known as a “Proposed Determination.” EPA’s primary finding in this critical report was “that the extraction, storage, treatment, and transportation activities associated with building, operating, and maintaining one of the largest mines ever built would pose significant risks to the unparalleled ecosystems that produce one of the greatest wild salmon fisheries left in the world.”

Developers of the Pebble Mine sued EPA after the release of the Proposed Determination and litigation continued until 2017, when EPA entered a settlement agreement with Pebble Mine developers and agreed to withdraw the Proposed Determination, after a public comment period.
After receiving hundreds of thousands of public comments on the potential withdrawal of the Proposed Determination, EPA decided to leave it in place pending the mine application process and required completion of the EIS.

On March 1, 2019, the U.S. Army Corps released the long-awaited draft EIS and opened it to public comment. Within the nearly 1,500 pages of this report, there is little (or shallow) acknowledgment or analysis of the concerns raised by EPA’s Proposed Determination, outdated comparisons and mitigation proposals, and undervaluation of a healthy marine ecosystem.

Read PCC’s full comments on the EIS here.

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