Reaction To Completion Of Pebble Mine Comment Period

The following press release is courtesy of the Salmon State:

ALASKA—Comments to the Army Corps of Engineers from thousands of fisheries scientists, resource managers, biologists and former mine employees make clear that Pebble Mine’s Environmental Impact Statement is anything but the rigorous scientific assessment that Senator Lisa Murkowski and others have said the project demands.

The comment period for the mine’s EIS ended at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, July 1.

“When we started to look at the EIS in detail, we at first thought that we had failed to receive the whole thing, it was so deficient,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “Unfortunately those deficiencies were not mistakes, but a calculated effort to gloss over or outright ignore major issues.”

Dr. Daniel Schindler, a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences and a lead scientist for the Alaska Salmon Program, which has been studying the salmon of Bristol Bay for more than seven decades, wrote in his comments that the EIS is “careless” and suffers from “a complete lack of rigor.”

 

“If (Pebble Mine’s environmental impact) assessment was submitted to the standard scientific peer review process, I believe it would be soundly rejected and found to be unpublishable in the scientific literature,” he wrote. He highlighted 10 fatal shortcomings in the EIS, among them the underestimation of the risk of earthquakes and mine waste dump failures and an inadequate assessment of fish habitat.

Environmental scientist and former Pebble Mine consultant Molly Welker wrote that chief among her concerns are that Pebble plans to use untested water treatment plants that do not adequately treat for the mineral selenium, which is known to kill and cause deformities in fish. The mine, she wrote “is a giant experiment being conducted in an ecologically sensitive part of Alaska.”

Environmental and permitting specialist Richard Borden, a former head of environment specializing in copper mines at Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest mining and metals corporations, wrote that the EIS “contains insufficient detail,” “commonly understates potential impacts,” and that “in a number of significant instances, the conclusions are clearly wrong.

Finally, the American Fisheries Society, the Western Division of AFS, and the Alaska chapter of AFS submitted joint comments representing more than 7,500 fisheries scientists and resource managers. They wrote that the DEIS “fails to meet basic standards of scientific rigor in a region that clearly demands the highest level of scrutiny and thoroughness.” Specifically, they said that “impacts and risks to fish and their habitats are underestimated… many conclusions are not supported by the data or analysis provided; and… critical information is missing.”

These are just a sampling of the numerous comments provided by scientists that point out fatal shortcomings in the mine’s EIS.

“Senator Lisa Murkowski has repeatedly said that the permitting process for Pebble Mine should be ‘rigorous,’ ‘robust,’ and scientifically sound,” said SalmonState’s Tim Bristol. “Instead, the ‘process’ is a rushed hack job whose aim is to push through a project that would destroy the greatest wild salmon run left in the world. After reading what salmon scientists have to say, there is only one appropriate response — reject Pebble Mine’s plan to develop a massive open pit and industrial footprint in one of the most ecologically pristine and sensitive regions on Earth. This idea is way too risky and the ACOE’s DEIS is a product born of shoddy science and naked political calculation that endangers the people, jobs, and habitat of Bristol Bay, as well as the reputation of Alaska’s world-renowned wild salmon.”

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