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Alaska senators weigh in on Bristol Bay mining

By Bonney Bowman 6:23 AM January 21, 2014

Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski address resource development

ANCHORAGE – After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week released a report analyzing the risks of mining in the Bristol Bay region, Alaska’s senators are weighing in on the controversial Pebble Project.

Both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich addressed the issue Monday.

Murkowski said she’s concerned about the impact mining at Pebble could have on fish in Bristol Bay; she’s not willing to sacrifice one resource for another. The state should have final authority over development on state lands, Murkowski said, although the lack of a formal permitting proposal from the Pebble Partnership isn’t helping allay concerns.

“If you’re going to do something, advance it so that we can know that before we can judge it,” Murkowski said.

Begich also questioned the proposed mine. Based on the EPA report and conversations with constituents, he said he believes the proposed mine is a bad idea. Begich said he supports Alaskan mining opportunities, but the risk in the Bristol Bay region is too great.

“That mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place, too large,” Begich said. “My view is the impact on the fisheries and jobs related to that, as well as important subsistence use fisheries for Alaska Natives in that area.”

In a statement responding to Begich’s comments, the Pebble Partnership said it’s disappointed in the senator’s stance against the jobs, revenue and economic activity the mine could provide.

Siding with Murkowski, the mining group said the state should make the final decision on development.

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