The firm hired by the Pebble Partnership to review the company's substantial environmental baseline studies will hold a second set of independent science panels starting May 6. The panels will be held in Anchorage, and will be filmed and broadcast via web-stream live. Remote participants can submit questions and comments by email during the event.
The Keystone Center, which was commissioned to complete the review, is now accepting registrations for the science panels, which will be broken up by topic over two days. On May 6, the panel will focus on vegetation and wetlands, while the May 7 panel will focus on wildlife, habitat and threatened or endangered species.
Independent scientists have been asked to review Pebble Partnership's studies, and panelists and committee members serve without compensation other than travel and lodging expenses. Recommendations that are issued from the panels will be incorporated into a forthcoming report.
The scientific peer review panel, convened and moderated by the Keystone Center, a Colorado-based nonprofit hired to facilitate a dialogue regarding the proposed mine, convened last October amid controversy and anti-Pebble protests. Opponents say the review panel process is biased because it is paid for by the Pebble Partnership. Keystone organizers contend, however, that the scientists reviewing the data are unpaid and unbiased. At last fall's meetings, questions were raised about the methodology used to evaluate certain features of the region, which is being researched in conjunction with a hotly controversial proposed large-scale gold, copper and molybdenum mine in the Bristol Bay watershed.
The Keystone Center said last fall that it hoped to hold the next panel in Bristol Bay.
The Keystone reviews occurred somewhat simultaneously to the Environmental Protection Agency's review of its draft assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed, which is due to be released this spring. The EPA recently announced it would hold a second review prior to the assessment's release, drawing criticism from some, who have called for the federal agency to take a strong stance against mining in the Bristol Bay Watershed. Opponents to the EPA's action, however, say that the agency has no place investigating mine activity in the area when a mine plan has yet to be filed for the proposed Pebble Mine. The EPA based its assessment on a hypothetical mine plan drawing from plans submitted to stockholders involved in the prospect.
The preceding report was first published by The Bristol Bay Times and is republished here with permission.