Environment | National

EPA finds major risk in mine opposed by Alaska Natives

The controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska poses a significant risk to salmon and the Alaska Native way of life, the Environmental Protection Agency said on Wednesday.

The Bristol Bay Assessment said the mine would destroy 24 to 94 miles of salmon-supporting streams and 1,300 to 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes. Waste from the facility would pollute 13 to 51 miles of streams, according to the EPA.

Additionally, the EPA cited potential accidents and failures that could harm rivers, streams and other wetlands. That puts $480 million in economic activity in the Bristol Bay region at risk, the assessment said.

"Over three years, EPA compiled the best, most current science on the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could impact salmon and water in this unique area of unparalleled natural resources," Dennis McLerran, the EPA Region 10 administrator, said in a press release. "Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years. The assessment is a technical resource for governments, tribes and the public as we consider how to address the challenges of large-scale mining and ecological protection in the Bristol Bay watershed."

The company behind the mine has yet to file a permit application with the EPA. But Alaska Native leaders hope the assessment would prevent the project from moving forward.

"With today's release, science has weighed-in: Bristol Bay, its existing jobs and way of life could be irreparably damaged by a large-scale mine that is the size and scope of the Pebble project--and therefore, our fish, our people and our cultures must be protected," Jason Metrokin,the president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corporation, said in a press release.

Get the Story:
EPA concludes Pebble mine poses significant risk to salmon (The Anchorage Daily News 1/16)
EPA: Mining would destroy fishery, villages, part of watershed in Alaska’s Bristol Bay (The Washington Post 1/16)
EPA report: Mining poses risks to Alaska's Bristol Bay region (AP 1/15)

An Opinion:
The EPA and the Pebble project: Federal agency shouldn’t use latest report to pre-judge mine project (The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner 1/16)

Related Stories:
Firm pulls out of controversial mine opposed by Alaska Natives (9/17)
New EPA leader visits controversial Pebble Mine site in Alaska (08/28)
New leader of EPA considers trip to Pebble Mine site in Alaska (8/2)
Opinion: Pebble Mine brings development to Native villages (07/22)
Callan J. Chythlook-Sifsof: Native subsistence under threat (06/28)

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