Save Bristol Bay On The Impact Of A Pebble Mine Dam Failure

The following press release is courtesy of Save Bristol Bay: 


Dear ,

The Army Corps of Engineers didn’t do its job, so the fishermen of Bristol Bay had to pay to do it for them. The results are frightening: if Pebble Mine’s tailings dam fails, it could kill a pristine river.


The single-greatest risk involved in an open-pit mine is the tailings dam holding Billions of tons of mine waste. Tailings dams are not stout concrete structures like water dams. They are mounds of earth and too often, they fail. In its EIS the Army Corps examined only a tiny discharge from the tailings storage facility. Independent expert analysis suggests a realistic dam failure scenario would involve 10,000 times more material flowing downstream than the Army Corps studied.

This is yet another example of how incoherent and incomplete this permitting process has been. Studying one ten-thousandth of the danger just doesn’t cut it for a place as special as Bristol Bay. In this fatally-flawed document, the Army Corps is cutting corners in ways that seem calculated to get the Pebble permitted as quickly as possible and get executives their million-dollar bonuses. Science is supposed to drive this process, not lies of omission and political motivations.

Because the Army Corps didn’t do their job, Bristol Bay fishermen had to hire a scientist to take a hard look at a catastrophic tailings dam failure in Bristol Bay like those that have recently occurred in British Columbia and Brazil. Dr. Cam Wobus is an MIT-educated earth scientist specializing in hydrology and geomorphology. He is a peer-reviewed expert on this subject. What he found was horrifying. If the Pebble tailings dam fails, the Nushagak River basin downstream of the mine is going to be coated with a layer of mine waste. Summer or winter, wet or frozen, it doesn’t matter: nothing will stop the flood of debris.

What happens once all that waste is on the landscape? It will stay there for decades, leaching heavy metals and acid into the watershed every time it rains, every breakup flood. Salmon eggs will be coated in a layer of sediment, killing a generation of salmon. These are not transitory effects. This is a decades-long disaster.

In addition to the magnitude of the consequences, Dr. Wobus concluded the likelihood of a dam failure is significant. According to his analysis, the probability of failure is 20% or greater over the expected life of Pebble.  

The only reasonable option is to tell the Army Corps no. Tell them their EIS is incomplete and the process needs to be halted now. No credible permitting process would ignore this kind of lurking nightmare. Tell the Army Corps to stop and put this deadly mine back on the shelf where it belongs.

-Save Bristol Bay

PS. Can you throw in $15 to help us employ a team of leading scientists to help us stop Pebble?