We’ve reviewed dozens of Environmental Impact Statements over the years. And while they’re not our preferred bedtime reading, we were looking forward to seeing what the federal Army Corps had to say in the recently released Draft EIS (DEIS) for the proposed Pebble Mine.
Our conclusion: the Pebble EIS is a bad joke. It’s incomplete. It’s unscientific. And for every Alaskan who cares about Bristol Bay, it’s wholly unacceptable.
The Pebble DEIS should be thrown out and the process should be restarted once Pebble can answer basic questions about how and where they plan to mine, and how they plan to protect people, drinking water, salmon and fishing jobs in Bristol Bay.
What makes the Pebble DEIS such a laughable document? Here are three overarching reasons:
- A complete lack of protection for the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and the $1.5 billion industry it supports. Pebble actually promises it can make the water in Bristol Bay cleaner than it is today after they use it to process toxic mine waste. Seriously, that’s what is says. They offer no description how they will accomplish or pay for this historic feat, despite the fact it’s never been done before at this scale. When the EPA studied the impacts of a mine on Bristol Bay, they found that it would decimate fish habitat throughout the region and would cripple the $1.5 billion commercial salmon fishing industry in the region. Rather than follow the science, however, the Corps accepted Pebble’s lies at face value and made them the baseline of the Draft EIS.
- A complete failure to plan for the kinds of disasters that are the hallmark of open pit mines around the world. The facilities used to store mine waste at open pit copper mines have a long history of failing – causing mine waste to leak and contaminate waterways forever. This already long list grows each year, and notably includes the Mount Polley Mine, which spilled billions of gallons of toxic mine waste after its dam (which was designed by the same company that Pebble used) failed in British Columbia. Most modern and sophisticated mines in the world have failed even when held to the most rigorous standards. Yet somehow the Pebble DEIS does not address this scenario at all.
- Pebble can’t answer major questions about how their project would work – and the Corps doesn’t care. In the lead-up to the Pebble DEIS, the Army Corps highlighted more than 160 instances where Pebble failed to provide adequate information. Typically, a failure to answer these kinds of questions stops the application process until the Corps receives answers. But the Army Corps chose to plow ahead with the application, despite the fact Pebble failed to answer major questions about the mine’s function, its impact on the fisheries of Bristol Bay, and its impacts on tribal communities. And if we really want to understand just how rigged this process is, consider this: the Army Corps agrees Pebble’s application is incomplete – yet it’s simply chosen not to care.
The Pebble people are trying to ram through the DEIS because they know the political stars are aligned to rubber stamp this monstrosity.
In the meantime, if you need some good fire starter, the Pebble DEIS is good for something.