Progress for Protecting Alaska’s Wildlife from Mining
There is good news for coastal brown bears and other wildlife in Alaska threatened by a proposed large-scale mining project! A new environmental watershed assessment from the Environmental Protection Agency clearly shows that development of the proposed Pebble Mine should not be allowed because of unacceptable risks to the ecosystems and wildlife of Bristol Bay.
An Abundant and Fragile Habitat
Bristol Bay is home to a vibrant community of wildlife that includes coastal brown bears and the world’s largest runs of sockeye salmon. The bears converge on the watershed’s pristine rivers and streams after winter hibernation to feed on salmon and regain much needed energy. This critical wildlife habitat area is also the historic home to more than two dozen Alaska Native communities that have maintained a salmon-based culture for at least 4,000 years.
The proposed Pebble Mine would be one of the largest open pit mines in North America and churn out over a billion tons of mining waste. What was once a wildlife paradise would be transformed into an industrial wasteland, with toxic chemicals from mining copper and gold killing off the bears’ critical food source and polluting waterways.
The Review Got it Right for Wildlife
According to the EPA’s assessment, the construction and routine operations of one Pebble-like mine would destroy up to 94 miles of streams and as many as 5,350 acres of wetlands. These are huge numbers and essentially represent the inevitable cost of developing large mines in a region laced by a system of prolific wetlands, streams and rivers. The EPA also concluded that large-scale mining would have significant impacts on salmon and salmon habitat in the vicinity of the mines.
This project is a disaster waiting to happen. Even under the best conditions, it would be virtually impossible to stop the toxic waste from leaking into rivers that bears and other wildlife depend upon. And if the dams break, it would be absolutely devastating to the rivers and wildlife downstream.
The Environmental Protection Agency should act promptly to halt the Pebble Mine proposal and prevent its significant and unacceptable effects on Alaska’s wildlife.