EPA is Right on Pebble Mine Project

Written by: John Fairbanks
PUBLISHED: October 29, 2012
Read full article at The Wall Street Journal

Critical detail is lacking in the letter of Oct. 20 from the Alaska Miners Association’s Deantha Crockett. The Pebble project mine’s hundreds of jobs pale in comparison to the 14,000 current jobs tied to the sustainable Bristol Bay salmon fishery, an industry that requires a healthy habitat. This may be the only time my industry and the EPA agree; swapping 14,000 fishing jobs for 1,000 foreign mining jobs isn’t good math for America or Alaska.

The proposed Pebble mine would be the largest open-pit mine ever constructed in North America. Its massive footprint—including a 1300-acre mining pit, a 3,600-acre tailings impoundment and a 685-foot-high earthen dam—lies across the headwaters of the two most productive salmon-bearing rivers in Bristol Bay. These headwaters are an essential nursery for healthy salmon populations.

Pebble proponents question the EPA’s right to deny permits before submitting an application. In fact, under federal law, the EPA may deny permits on finding “unacceptable adverse effects” on the nation’s waters, which include most of Bristol Bay’s clean, productive streams and rivers. They can and should prevent mining dredge and fill materials from damaging these resources.

Commercial fishermen understand the value of industry and fairness. That’s why we support placing common-sense restrictions on mining now. These restrictions would protect salmon jobs and industry for hundreds of years and provide certainty to mining companies before investing more time and money. Proposed restrictions would allow Pebble to seek future mining permits—ones that don’t damage our fishery. This is good business, plain and simple.

John Fairbanks

Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association

Bellingham, Wash.

A version of this article appeared October 30, 2012, on page A22 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: EPA Is Right on Pebble Mine Project.