The draft report by the EPA on potential mining impacts on Bristol Bay by the Pebble Mine or any of the other seven potential mines in that part of Alaska is published. Here is a link to one report thereon—there are hundreds of news items, so maybe look for others as well if the topic interests you.
We can expect much comment and vacuous writing on the EPA report–why this is one to begin with. In essence, the EPA finds that there is a real probability of failure of the tailings impoundment and a real possibility of contamination of fish habitat by a mine above Bristol Bay. “Could wipe things out for decades,” they say.
This finding is so obvious that you blush to think that it took a big government agency months to come to so simple and obvious a conclusion.
The highly politicised nature of the Pebble Mine and mining development in general in the area makes any statement dangerous. In saying anything, you risk swift attack by the powers that stand to benefit from the mine. Even my past postings on this blog on the Pebble Mine have brought me stern lectures from friends and bosses—Anglo is a client, they say. Maybe we should offer to help them, not comment on their mine?
I retreat into dumb silence and the shield of blogging. Anglo knows what I write; they know who I work for; they probably even know me. It is their choice. But recall that Anglo in the old days in South Africa stood for freedom–at least opposition to the Apartheid regime of the day. I take that to mean that Anglo still supports freedom of opinion. And freedom to choose whom to hear.
Those who oppose Pebble Mine will laud the EPA report and back up their beliefs with the authority of the EPA. Those who support the mine, will attack the EPA as a bunch of hopeless innocents beholden to Obama. One potential peer reviewer of the EPA report has already told me he will attack the report for generalization: they did not evaluate the Pebble Mine; they simply looked at averages and statistics. That is not science, he will say. That is opinion based on prejudice, he will say.
He who shouts loudest may win. She who coins the best sound bite, will win. Those who can write the most eloquent letter, may win. And those with power behind the curtain will prevail. Oh where is Hamlet to pierce the curtain to Polonius when we need him?
The real issues in my mind are these: Do we need yet another gold mine? Do we need a gold mine in every state and county? Surely there are some places we just should not mine? Surely at least once, we should put food ahead of gold?
I oppose the mine for the very simple reason that I know we cannot build waste rock dumps and tailings impoundments to last forever and never be subject to the inevitable forces of geomorphology. Or if we can, as we did on the UMTRA Project, the cost is more than a commercial miner will pay.
I repeat what I have written before: (a) prove there is no need for perpetual water treatment; (b) prove that you can walk away at the end of mining and not do long-term surveillance & maintenance; (c) show how the waste facilities will perform in the next 1,000 and 10,000 years; (d) prove that there is zero probability of failure and zero probability of fish impact.
Unless you can satisfy me, you should not be allowed to mine.
Now I know I shall be excoriated for such arrogance & pride. I shall get nasty comments. I shall receive supportive private emails. My bosses and consulting colleagues will sit me down and politely admonish me. It will all be a small and private replay of the bigger fight. For billions and big egos are at stake.
Join in the fray. It is a worthy fight. At least as worthy as the fight that Anglo fought against Apartheid.