Controversial Pebble Mine gets approval from US Army Corps of Engineers

Published on
July 24, 2020

The controversial Pebble Mine, proposed for a location near the headwaters that feed the Bristol Bay, Alaska, sockeye fishery, has received its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

SalmonState, an advocate for salmon fisheries in Alaska, has called the new impact statement a “rubber stamp” that is largely the same as the initial draft of the EIS. Opposition to the Pebble Mine from fishermen, environmentalists, and tribal representatives has been ongoing for more than a decade, and was renewed in 2017 when mining conglomerate Pebble Limited Partnership applied for a permit for an open pit copper, gold, and molybdenum mine.

“With a wink and an under-the-table handshake, Pebble is asking the U.S. Army Corps to issue a foot-in-the-door permit for a fake mine that is only a fraction of the one it intends to build,” SalmonState Executive Director Tom Bristol said in a release.

The draft document that the final EIS is based on drew criticism from multiple fronts, including Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who stood behind language critical of the project. That language, contained in an appropriations bill from the Senate Interior, Environmental, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee – which Murkowski chairs – found the draft EIS to be inadequate.

“The committee shares the agencies’ concerns that the DEIS lacks certain critical information about the proposed project and related mitigation and therefore underestimates its potential risks and impacts,” the bill read.

The mine has been a controversial topic in the region for years, and has been fought on numerous fronts, with lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency in the wake of the rollback of  protections enacted by former U.S. President Barack Obama, opposition from U.S. senators, and lawsuits related to the Endangered Species Protection Act due to recent scientific discoveries that may require the listing of harbor seals near the area as endangered.

The many fronts of opposition, according to SalmonState, has already sealed the fate of the Pebble Mine.

“While Pebble will claim this document is a validation of its phony plan, this project is still in the ditch. The majority of Alaskans hate it, it will face broad and deep public opposition, congressional scrutiny, legal opposition, and a steadily-growing number of investors not interested in environmentally destructive and socially disruptive projects like Pebble,” Bristol said.  “Pebble will cheer this document as a triumph, but it is so poorly done and the process has angered so many, the pushback will be like a tidal wave. Over time, we will come to see this moment as the beginning of the end for the proposed Pebble Mine.” 

Image courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

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