With the recent release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble mine in record-fast time, Alaskans have been dismayed at the slapdash efforts of our federal and state governments to ram through a thin and incomplete review for a giant gold mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay.
And one of the gravest oversights in the Pebble EIS is its superficial look at the enormous mine waste Pebble will generate, and the unprecedented amount of water Pebble will need to contain and treat. And when we say “treat,” we don’t just mean during mining operations. No, proper treatment will mean ensuring the toxic water behind Pebble’s earthen tailings dam gets treated in perpetuity. Yes, Pebble will have to treat its polluted wastewater FOREVER.
Yet nothing, of course, lasts forever, especially when perpetual treatment relies on a Canadian mining company and its investors to foot the bill. That’s why every Alaskan needs to know the Pebble mine will not protect the waters of Bristol Bay which support our wild salmon and countless Alaskans.
Our friends at Earthworks do a great job highlighting the horrendous track record of large mines, and how it’s standard operating practice to pollute surrounding waters. Recently they did an analysis on Pebble’s wasterwater, and here are some excerpts:
“The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Pebble Mine estimates that it will generate an average of 6.8 billion gallons per year of waste water during operations and 11.8 billion gallons per year during closure, requiring capture and treatment. The waste water will contain metals and other pollution harmful to fish and public health. This is unprecedented. We can find no other U.S. hardrock mining operations that capture and treat such a large volume of contaminated mine water.
- This volume is more than three to six times the amount of contaminated mine water treated at the nation’s largest Superfund mining sites (e.g., the Berkeley Pit and Upper Coeur d’Alene Basin) and two to four times the volume treated at the largest operating open pit mine in the U.S. (Bingham Canyon).
- Pebble’s proposed water treatment system is highly complex and untested, and it will likely need to operate in perpetuity. 1
- In a 2012 review of operating U.S. copper mines that account for 89% of U.S. copper production, 92% failed to capture and treat mine waste water, resulting in significant water quality impacts.”
If water is life – and we all know it is – then it’s time we stepped up our game. Let’s make sure Lisa Murkwoski knows the pure running waters of Bristol Bay are too important to waste on the Pebble mine. Because once we lose clean water, we lose life.