A panel of twelve independent scientists met in Anchorage last week to review the EPA's draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment. They've been assigned the task of reviewing the science behind the EPA study, which found that the mine footprint alone would result in the likely loss of up to 87 miles of streams and thousands of acres of wetlands.
The three day event included a lengthy public comment period on the first day in which top scientists, Alaska native leaders, commercial fishermen, conservation organizations and others weighed in.
Earthwork's staff testified in support of the watershed assessment and presented the findings of a recent report we've compiled on the record of pipeline spills, uncontrolled seepage and tailings dam failures at operating copper porphyry mines in the U.S. If developed, Pebble will be the largest copper porphyry mine in the U.S.
The Pebble proponents claim that mitigation measures can prevent these problems, but the record of operating copper porphyry mines in the U.S. disputes this.
The peer review panel will submit its findings to the EPA, and the EPA will consider their comments in the final watershed assessment, which is expected this fall. The draft watershed assessment has received overwhelming support, with roughly 220,000 comments submitted, and more than 95% in support of the EPA study, according to the EPA.