If there's one thing politicians have in common, it's the abiding faith that if they say something over and over again, that it will become true (at least in terms of public perception). So it's no wonder that the Pebble Partnership -- stocked with former pols and bureaucrats -- have spent millions of dollars on advertising and lobbying to convince us that -- wait for it -- there is no plan to mine in Bristol Bay.
Let's be absolutely clear: there is a mine plan. And publicly accessible information is out there to prove it.
Visit the Alaska Department of Natural Resources web site, where you can find plans filed by Northern Dynasty (Pebble Partnership) in which they depict massive dams and tailings impoundments. You see, state law requires a project description in order to apply for water rights. Since Alaska's system is based on a principal of "first in line first in right," the companies seeking to develop Pebble quickly applied for the rights to "use" water from Upper Talarik Creek and the South Fork of the Koktuli River -- the headwaters of Bristol Bay.
For further insight, turn on your television. Slick advertisements intend to move public opinion in support of Pebble Partnership's plan to build the world's largest open-pit copper mine at the headwaters of the greatest wild salmon fishery on planet Earth. The magnitude of their ad campaign testifies to the size of their plans in Bristol Bay.
If that's not enough, look at the presentations that the company shows to corporate investors. Slide shows are filled with braggadocio about the sheer magnitude and unprecedented size of the project. Check out filings made with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC). The 2011 Wardrop Report -- commissioned by these foreign mining companies -- includes their own analysis about deposit estimates, mining methods, waste management and even a chapter called "mine planning." In a press release, Northern Dynasty called their mine plans "economically feasible and permittable." If the companies behind Pebble believe the Wardrop plans are factual, why shouldn't Alaskans and the EPA examine them as real mine plans?
Mine plans for Pebble exist. The facts prove it. Pebble will kick and scream about it, but these plans show sufficient information about the location, size and geochemical makeup of the deposit, water use, power needs, waste, etc. to have an honest conversation about the impacts of large-scale mining on Bristol Bay and the tens of thousands of jobs generated by Bristol Bay's salmon resource.
The Pebble Partnership's approach to the EPA assessment is an insult to the intelligence of Alaskans. They say the assessment is based on a "fantasy mine plan" and that "no mining plans exist," so that EPA's findings are invalid. But even National Geographic, a trusted and independent source, recently reported "most independent experts who have examined the preliminary plan believe it accurately reflects the nature of the deposit and its remote location" and that "the overall scale (of Pebble Mine) isn't hard to predict."
The recently released EPA Peer Review report showed that a majority of the independent science panel believed EPA's mine scenario was realistic. One reviewer, UAF School of Fisheries professor Courtney Carothers, even said "the hypothetical mine scenario (used by the EPA) was closely based on a probable mine prospect under development. As such, it appears to be realistic and sufficient."
The EPA is assessing Bristol Bay at the request of Alaskan tribes, fishermen and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. The EPA is an American agency operating at the request of Americans trying to protect American fishing jobs and families -- yet foreign mining companies still have the audacity to tell us that there is no mine plan and attack the EPA. EPA action puts Alaskans in the driver's seat, not foreign mining companies.
Once again, Pebble lies. They have a mining plan when it helps them with investment or legal hurdles but not when EPA uses it to assess risks. Pebble cannot have it both ways. We need elected officials who will stand for Alaska on this issue. Alaskans deserve the truth.
Lindsey Bloom runs a commercial fishing business in Bristol Bay. She can be reached at Lindsey@BloominAlaska.net. Brian Kraft is the owner of the Alaska Sportsman's Lodge and Alaska Sportsman's Bear Trail Lodge on the Kvichak and Naknek rivers. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By LINDSAY BLOOM and BRIAN KRAFT