- Here’s an interesting take on last week’s Mount Polley mine accident in British Columbia that was sure to trigger a response in Alaska, which has been locked in a tug-of-war over the Pebble Mine project.
From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
The collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam “validates fears Alaska fishermen have regarding Canada’s proposed development of large-scale hardrock mineral mines near transboundary rivers with Alaska,” Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has opposed EPA intervention at the Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay, asked Kerry to intervene to ensure regulation at Canadian mines.
“The tailings breach at Mount Polley mine … has renewed the specter of environmental impacts from large scale hard rock mineral developments in Canada that are located near transboundary rivers,” Murkowski wrote.
“Thousands of Alaska natives, commercial fishermen, and tourism industry shareholders have legitimate concerns about the potential impacts that large scale mining in Canada could hold for them.” …
Environmental Protection on the concern regarding the proposed Pebble Mine project:
“We don’t want this to happen in Bristol Bay,” said Kim Williams, director of Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of Alaska Native Tribes and corporations. “With all the similarities between Pebble and the Mount Polley copper mine, we’re urging the EPA to take immediate action to finalize mine waste restrictions in Bristol Bay,” she continued.
On Monday, a tailings dam failure caused over five million cubic meters of wastewater to spill from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper and gold mine, flowing into the headwaters of the Fraser River watershed, and causing officials to enact a number of water use and drinking water bans. The Mount Polley Mine in B.C. and the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska are both large, open pit, copper porphyry mines, with a modern tailings dam design, located at the headwaters of an important fishery.
“Our research shows that these tailings dam failures are far more common than the industry wants to admit,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks northwest office. “In the U.S. more than a quarter of the currently operating copper porphyry mines have experienced partial or total tailings pond failures.” She continued, “That’s why the EPA’s plan to restrict mine waste in the Bristol Bay watershed is so critical to the future of our nation’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, ”
Such an event will only add to the tension.