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Taryn Kiekow Heimer’s Blog

The Message to EPA is Clear: It's Time to Stop Pebble Mine

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Posted September 17, 2013 in Reviving the World's Oceans, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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The numbers are in and it’s a landslide.  Almost three out of four — 73 percent — of comments to EPA on its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment said NO to Pebble Mine. It’s a loud-and-clear message: Americans are counting on EPA to protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining like the proposed Pebble Mine.  

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An analysis of 895,195 public comments submitted to EPA regarding its Watershed Assessment found that 73 percent were supportive of EPA protecting Bristol Bay, including 84 percent of individual comments from Alaska and a staggering 98 percent of individual comments from Bristol Bay residents.

EPA issued a revised draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment earlier this year concluding that Pebble Mine would have “significant” and even “catastrophic” impacts – including the certain dewatering, destruction, and pollution of the Bristol Bay watershed. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited the Bristol Bay region last month in order to learn more about Pebble Mine, where she heard a unanimous request from a capacity crowd in Dillingham, Alaska to stop the Pebble Mine.

It’s more important than ever for EPA to protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining, especially considering a  stunning announcement yesterday that left people in the region with more questions than answers. 

Yesterday British mining giant Anglo American –  the principal financier and 50% stakeholder of the Pebble Mine  –  withdrew from the project.  Citing a desire to focus on projects with the “highest value and lowest risks,” UK-based Anglo American announced that it would no longer join with Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals in pursuing building North America’s largest open pit mine at the headwaters of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery.  After spending more than $500 million dollars to develop the mine, Anglo American finally realized what we've known all along: Pebble Mine poses too great of a risk. Like Mitsubishi in 2011, Anglo realized that Pebble Mine is a bad investment.  What’s more, it was willing to write down $300 million in losses to pull the plug.

While this is a huge step forward, it does not mean the fight to stop Pebble Mine is over.  Northern Dynasty Minerals, now the sole owner of the project, immediately issued a press release and held a teleconference pledging to move forward with plans to build Pebble Mine.  And there are several other mining claims in Bristol Bay just waiting to be developed.

Which is why we urge EPA to initiate action under the Clean Water Act to permanently protect Bristol Bay from large scale mining like the Pebble Mine.  EPA must finalize its Watershed Assessment this year as promised and then and use its Clean Water Act authority to ensure the long term protection of Bristol Bay. The science supports it, and almost three quarters of those that commented support it as well. 

It’s time for our political leaders act on what business leaders have already realized: Pebble Mine is simply too great of a risk.  Click here to make your voice heard. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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