Between a Sockeye and a Hard Rock Mining Place
For hunters, anglers, commercial fishermen and women and Alaska Natives, Bristol Bay is an untouched wilderness, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon runs. It also supports a rich ecosystem filled with other wildlife like bears, wolves, moose and caribou. Despite the economic and cultural benefits of this pristine outdoor spot, international mining companies could tarnish this natural jewel for more elusive minerals.
Gold, copper and molybdenum are lying in the ground beneath Bristol Bay. Foreign mining companies want to develop the largest open mine pit in North America right here in order to extract these materials. Mineral deposits, however, are not the only thing that will escape from a giant hole in the ground should Pebble Mine be developed near the bay.
Hard rock mining in Bristol Bay could potentially release billions of tons of toxic mine waste into the environment. This poisonous mining byproduct will be located in earthen dams in areas well known for earthquakes. Additionally, construction of a 100 mile road and a fossil fuel power plant for the proposed Pebble Mine will lead to habitat destruction and an additional source of pollution that could poison clean water in Bristol Bay wildlife and people depend on. Toxic chemicals like cyanide and sulfuric acid are used in massive mining operations, and they are just some of the dangerous substances that can kill wildlife, seep into ground water and pose serious health threats.
Big mining companies are not always very good about cleaning up their messes. The public has to pay billions to deal with the pollution and clean-up while foreign companies take the lion’s share of the profits. Shockingly, the hard rock mining industry doesn’t have to pay royalties for minerals taken from our public lands.
Alaska residents are caught between a sockeye and a hard rock mining. Major loopholes in the Clean Water Act protect polluter interests and not wildlife or the public interest. These legal gaps allow mining companies to avoid properly treating and disposing of toxic waste by dumping the noxious mess directly into lakes, streams and other waters.
Bristol Bay is a natural resource worth more than gold, even if some gold mining companies may not appreciate the value of Alaska’s outdoor heritage.
Urge the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the wildlife of Bristol Bay against toxic mining. You can also follow @NWFAlaska and @NWFSalmon on Twitter for important updates on this important conservation issue.