The latest comments from state and federal agency experts confirm what we’ve known all along: the proposed Pebble Mine is a disastrous project that should not be permitted.
In February, the Army Corps of Engineers released an update of its environmental review of the proposed mine: the preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement. Yet documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Bristol Bay Native Corporation demonstrate that state and federal agency experts continue to identify major flaws in the mine’s plans, and confirm its unacceptable impacts.
From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, the agencies’ comments are damning – questioning the safety of its mine waste storage facilities (the tailings dam and tailings storage facility), its ability to meet water quality standards, and its harm to the annual salmon runs that sustain the Bristol Bay region:
On salmon habitat:
The PFEIS fails to acknowledge that habitat destruction and degradation associated with mine development […] would erode the portfolio of habitat diversity and associated life history diversity that stabilize annual salmon returns to the Bristol Bay region. – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
On the Pebble Limited Partnership’s inadequate or incomplete plans:
It is not clear that the PFEIS has considered risks, impacts, or mitigation of changes in operations or failures in the closure and post-closure periods and the respective obligations of the applicant.
[The closure approach for the] pyritic Tailings Storage Facility … does not appear to be reasonable, practicable or safe. – Alaska Department of Natural Resources
On tailings dam design:
There is concern that some and perhaps all of the entire centerline part of the bulk Tailings Storage Facility main embankment (not just the uppermost raise) could slide into potentially undrained tailings and have consequent effects in a downstream direction. – AECOM Technical Memo
On water quality:
No support for conclusion that metals would be diluted to below ADEC groundwater cleanup levels. –Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Despite the severity of the problems, the Corps continues to assert that it will release a final Environmental Impact Statement this summer and a final decision this fall.
Northern Dynasty, the Canadian company behind the proposed mine, has had two decades to demonstrate that it can build the massive mine without harming the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery and all those who depend on it. Based on the expert comments above, it’s clear that it can’t. The Corps only acceptable decision is a definitive “No.”