Compass: Pebble backers persist in twisting truth

There comes a time in some writing careers where people start going through the motions and stop applying journalistic standards.

That time is definitely here for Paul Jenkins. Once a respected journalist, Jenkins has turned into an opinion-"ated" writer who simply regurgitates the words of others and collects a paycheck.

In his Nov. 25 opinion piece, Jenkins blatantly ignores the increasing body of science against the development of Pebble Mine and framed the entire Pebble issue around one, new bit-piece in the Pebble story: that the world's only healthy fresh water seal population in Lake Iliamna is potentially threatened by Pebble development. No small bit-piece to be sure, since Pebble has still not ruled out dumping mine waste into Alaska's largest lake -- which is also the world's largest incubator of wild salmon. But that is not the whole story.

Three very exhaustive studies by the Wild Salmon Center, The Nature Conservancy, and the EPA all have concluded that whatever final plan Pebble puts forward, the result will be the same: the likely degradation or significant destruction of the last wild salmon fishery on earth. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C or any further iteration all have the same fatal flaw, that a large-scale metallic mineral mine in Bristol Bay's watershed headwaters will be unable to protect wild salmon, a resource that has greater long-term value than the minerals to be extracted.

Jenkins refers to anti-Pebble messages as "half-truths and outright lies." Yet he doesn't enumerate back-up for either allegation. Neither is supportable. The anti-Pebble position is simple and factual: no copper mine in the world the size of Pebble has been developed without destroying the waters around it, and no such mine has ever been developed in a location like Bristol Bay. Simply Google Butte copper or Bingham Canyon copper to see what necessarily occurs in the mining of copper.

Pebble has twisted this truth by claiming that Pebble opponents have claimed that all copper mines destroy the waters around them -- a claim never made.

I would simply repeat: all copper mines the size of Pebble have destroyed the waters around them and no such mine has ever been developed in a location like Bristol Bay. The late Ted Stevens supported virtually every mine in Alaska but concluded that the evidence showed a 100 percent certainty that Pebble would significantly damage the last great wild salmon fishery and shouldn't proceed.

The foundational Pebble argument is that it has not submitted a plan -- so it cannot be judged. But Pebble does have a mine plan. It had to submit one to acquire the permits it filed in 2006 for 100 percent of the water of Upper Talarik Creek and the Koktuli River -- waters it had promised never to touch, calling them "sensitive fish habitat".

Alaska law says that to file for the water rights, you have to have a mine plan. So, if Pebble does not have a mine plan -- as it states -- then it clearly must relinquish its claim to 100 percent of the waters of one of the greatest trophy rainbow trout streams in the world.

The plans Pebble submitted for these water rights permits include detailed drawings of both a mine and the largest dams in the world to hold the mine waste -- for all time; 3,000 pounds of waste for every person on the planet.

None of the key Pebble opponents are anti-mine. We are conservationists who believe that destruction of the last great salmon fishery in the world is insanity. The facts back up the likelihood of that occurring with the development of Pebble Mine. Paul Jenkins has done nothing but provide an editorial voice for the mine developers that ignores all the accumulated facts. Story: Credentialed editorial writer becomes shill.

And a big side-story: Alaska is arguing over a small reduction in an oil production tax that is 20 times higher than what mining pays Alaska stakeholders. Hmmmm... Pebble is a lose-lose-lose proposition.

Art Hackney is a lifelong Alaskan who supports mining but opposes the Pebble mine. His company produces anti-Pebble ads.