Wrong mine, wrong place.
At the headwaters of Bristol Bay lies a massive low-grade sulfide ore body, known as the Pebble deposit. The Pebble Limited Partnership is pushing to develop the deposit and build the Pebble Mine despite public and political opposition and peer-reviewed scientific research showing that large-scale mining in Bristol Bay would have irreversible impacts on Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon populations.
There are three inherent facts that make the Pebble Mine the wrong mine in the wrong place:
- The Pebble deposit is an extremely low-grade ore body; low-grade ores require massive open-pits.
- The Pebble deposit is located in a seismically active zone, which increases the likelihood of major infrastructure failing (including tailings dam failures).
- The Pebble deposit is an acid-generating sulfide deposit, meaning that it will create acid mine drainage (toxic to fish).
The Pebble Partnership has promised “no net loss” of fish and “coexistence” between salmon and mining, however, these promises are not based on any facts. The Exxon Valdez oil spill, Deepwater Horizon disaster, and Mount Polley Mine dam failure are all costly examples showing that it’s not a question of if an accident will happen at the Pebble Mine site, but a question of when.
The Pebble Mine
On December 22, 2017, the Pebble Limited Partnership submitted its Clean Water Act 404 permit application (a.k.a. its “dredge and fill” permit) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Their permit application triggered the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting process, which entails an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
In its permit application, the Pebble Partnership proposes to:
- Mine a 1-mile-wide and quarter-mile deep pit;
- Destroy over 3,000 acres of wetlands and more than 21 miles of salmon streams at the mine site located in the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon run (plus destroy at least an additional 1,000 acres of wetlands and impact hundreds of streams from the road and pipeline);
- Construct a massive tailings storage facility, treatment ponds, and associated dams and embankments blocking and inundating salmon streams;
- Construct a private two-lane 83-mile-long road with more than 200 stream crossings and 8 large bridges;
- Develop an ice-breaker barge system across Lake Iliamna with two lakeside terminals;
- Develop a private and large Port facility on Cook Inlet near salmon streams and extending more than 4 miles into the inlet waters and known habitat for sea otters, beluga whales, humpback whales, and seals;
- Build and operate a 230-megawatt power plant (with two additional 2mw plants at the port) approximately 15 miles upwind from Lake Clark National Park;
- Lay a 188-mile-long natural gas pipeline over land and under the Cook Inlet and Iliamna Lake;
- At closure, backhaul the 1.1 billion tons of tailings waste into the pit, to be monitored and maintained in perpetuity.
- The mine and supporting facilities are currently proposed to run continuously for 20 years.
What Pebble’s permit application doesn’t say though is that they have plans to expand their “smaller mine” into a massive open-pit mining operation with up to 10 billion tons of mining waste. Pebble Limited Partnership’s Director, Ron Thiessen, alluded to this in November 2017 when he said in a presentation at the Cambridge House Silver and Gold Summit, “…operate a mine 20-25 years, get a social license, and see where we go from that point. Obviously this [mine plan] is not going to mine or harvest the majority of the deposit…”
The Pebble Partnership
The Pebble Limited Partnership was once a consortium of some of the world’s largest mining corporations, including London-based Anglo American. However, Anglo American walked away from the Pebble Mine project in 2013, leaving Canadian junior mining company Northern Dynasty on its own. Northern Dynasty has never developed a mine before.
In December 2017, Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals announced that it would invest in the Pebble prospect and front the $150 million needed to pay for the Pebble Mine’s permits, with the potential to acquire half of the Pebble project later on. This news has resulted in pressure from investors and Bristol Bay residents urging First Quantum Minerals to walk away from Pebble and follow Anglo American, Rio Tinto, and Mitsubishi, which all concluded that Pebble’s risks far outweighed any potential gains.
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