The EPA’s decision about the prudence of developing the Pebble Mine or any other mine in the area of Bristol Bay is in–see this link. This blog (I/me) has been a consistent critic of the idea of developing the Pebble Mine. In short, I cannot see how a mine could be developed in such an environment without unacceptable impact.
We can be grateful that we live in a country where such contentious issues can be decided by public scrutiny and debate. For that at least we should be thankful.
None of the other mining folk I know agree with me that Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place–not every jurisdiction needs it own mine for every metal conceivable. Only one geologist whom I know supports my opinion. She says the ore body is simply not rich enough to mine or justify the impact. The other mining engineers I talk to seem to adhere to a philosophy of “mine and be damned.” Or worse: “It is a source of money for us as consultants and suppliers—let it be so we can make money.”
Which put a lie to all the so-called professional engineers who have prostituted their ethics by bragging about their involvement. It is kind of like visiting Cuba and China to celebrate the color of the people and their exotic lives—yet ignoring the fact that they are prisoners of the system that is run for the benefit of a small group of powerful people.
Fascinating as the playing out of the Pebble Mine story has been, and undoubtedly will continue to be, it holds a deep lesson for the mining world and people power. Surely the following are fall-outs that will forever change mining:
- Low grade ore bodies are not worth the effort, regardless of how big they are.
- Foreign mining companies cannot march into democratic places and replicate past successes in apartheid societies–it is necessary to take a new-world look before jumping in with money and no understanding.
- Locals can and do win the battle if the cause is just. No amount of conferencing on social impact and responsible mining can obviate the fact that locals most often know best even if they seem to be simple people by the standards of blond graduates of learned universities.
- Lies that the plan in not yet formulated cannot curtain the reality that plans were in the books. How certain consultants could say to me with a straight face: “We have not formulated a design for the tailings impoundment,” continues to amaze and distress me. Did they read the ethics textbooks for their professional licenses?
- No number of academics, however dumb and drunk they be, and no matter how many inappropriate statements they make to pretty journalists can ultimately be bought off to say the right thing.
- Right-wing think tanks are loud drums of spurious scientific validity. The louder and clearer voice of reason emanating from the empowered masses must and does overwhelm their perverted logic and twisted focus.
The one whom I most admire, a former senior staff member of one of the many companies involved, is still my hero. He said to me at supper one evening, when I asked why he was not part of the Pebble Team: “Jack, they are so fucked up, that I cannot and will not be involved. To do so would simply lead to a loss of my reputation for integrity and discretion.”
Enough of my drunken recollections of personal discussions and fights with friends and colleagues. Now that an expensive charade has played out, now that Anglo has seen the light, now that the studies are in, it is time for all of us to acknowledge:
- There are just some places we cannot or should not mine.
- There are places where other activities bring in greater profit than any mine ever could.
- Mines inevitable impact the environment—seek robust environments for new mines, and avoid sensitive places (as an investor as well as a mining developer.)
- Promises and public relations are for nought in the face of contrary facts.
Let us hope this is the end of the story. Let us hope this does not drag on interminably. Let us hope that the mining industry wakes up to some absolutes and that from today forth we live in a new world where logic and not greed dictate where and how to mine.