I attended a presentation this week in Homer by Mark Hamilton, Vice President of External Affairs and mouthpiece for the Pebble mine, and it was remarkable on a couple fronts. First, the tone. Hamilton spoke down to the crowd like a seasoned used car salesman, highlighting only the possible benefits of the Pebble Mine, and flatly ignoring the many known impacts that will flow from a giant open pit mine in the headwaters of the world’s largest sockeye fisheries.
If we ignored the facts, and listened only to Hamilton, we’d be lead to believe we could have 1000 Pebble mines in Bristol Bay and there would be no impacts. But Hamilton’s condescending tone is not unique, and in fact appears to reflect a revised public relations strategy by Pebble. For example, Pebble CEO Tom Collier recently labeled Alaskans concerned about the Pebble Mine as “flat-earthers and schizophrenics.” And on their website and factsheets you’ll noticed that “they’ve listened” – that their mega-mine hole in the ground with billion-gallon toxic tailings ponds is “much smaller” and is consistently only referred to as a “project”.
Clearly, with favorable politics now at the state and federal levels, Pebble is embracing a ham-fisted assault on anyone with the audacity to question Pebble.
Equally disturbing, Hamilton not only ignored science, he lied about it. He flat out stated “Pebble will not harm fish.” But that runs contrary to EPA’s 2014 Watershed Assessment, which found serious impacts to fish and fish habitat from a large open pit mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. And while Hamilton tried to brush-off the assessment as “fake science,” he conveniently ignored the fact it underwent rigorous peer-review to bolster its scientific conclusions. He also hid the fact the Pebble Partnership itself – in a settlement with EPA – agreed EPA could use the watershed assessment “without limitation.”
So, now we await the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble mine, due out next month. The EIS has been rushed through at a faster pace than any major project in U.S. history, and State of Alaska biologists and scientists have had little time to review and comment on the draft (so much for “states’ rights” and “federal overreach”!). But rest assured, if the Pebble Mine gets its necessary permits in a timely fashion, CEO Tom Collier will enjoy “extraordinary bonuses” between $7.5 and $12.5 million dollars. Think about that next time Pebble stoops to calling Alaskans names for standing up to the Pebble mine.