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EPA says Bristol Bay mine poses big risks

By Lauren Maxwell 7:57 PM January 15, 2014

Agency releases final watershed report

ANCHORAGE – Is the risk of a large-scale mining project too great for Bristol Bay?

Some say that question has been answered by a report released Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA looked at the possible impacts of developing a large gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay Watershed and found many areas for concern. And while the EPA never mentions the Pebble Mine Project by name, it does say the report is based on information that was submitted by Northern Dynasty, the company that wants to develop the mine.

It took three years to put the report together from start to finish. It concludes that a project like Pebble poses serious risks for both salmon and native cultures in Bristol Bay.

But not everyone agrees with its conclusions.

“It’s fantasy, a lot of what they’ve done,” said Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively. “Should fantasy be a nail in the coffin? I don’t think so.”

The Partnership said the report was rushed and based on bad science. Those who oppose the mine think otherwise.

“If you don’t like the outcome of the review, you are going to say it’s bad data,” said Bristol Bay Native Corporation President Jason Metrokin, who only had praise for the process.

“It’s science-based and it’s been peer-reviewed multiple times. There are hundreds of thousands of public comments. This is unique to have that much involvement in a process like this.”

But Pebble insists the permitting process, not the report, that should be used to judge the mine project.

“I think when we have that plan and we go into the permitting process, we will show that we will not have the devastating impacts the EPA is projecting in this project,” Shively said.

The report doesn’t make a recommendation about whether Pebble should be allowed to go forward, although the EPA does have the power to veto the project under the Clean Water Act. Many people, including a coalition of Bristol Bay Native groups, are urging the agency to do that.

Gov. Sean Parnell does not agree. The permitting process should determine whether the mine is a good fit for the state, he said.

The Pebble Partnership said it will continue working on a plan for the mine to submit for the permitting application. However, they said a higher priority now is finding a new business partner which will help them invest — the old one, Anglo American, pulled out of the project in October.

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