The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday tried to deal a major blow to the proposed Pebble mine, a major copper and gold deposit in a salmon-rich region of southwest Alaska that has been hotly contested for more than a decade.
Casey Sixkiller, administrator of the EPA’s Pacific Northwest region, which includes Alaska, recommended that the agency halt construction of the mine under a rarely used measure called a “veto,” setting the stage for a final EPA decision -Headquarters by February.
The EPA has said construction and operation of the mine would destroy about 100 miles of river that supports salmon habitat by releasing “dredging or fill material” in the mining area. This would inflict “unacceptable adverse impacts” on fisheries in a watershed of “unprecedented ecological value”, supporting the agency’s special action.
“If endorsed by the EPA Office of Water in the fourth and final step, this action would help protect salmon fisheries that support world-class commercial and recreational fisheries and that have sustained Alaska Native people for thousands of years and supported a subsistence lifestyle for one of the world’s largest communities.” last intact wild salmon cultures in the world,” Sixkiller said in a statement Thursday.
Mine opponents have long called for the action, saying it’s unlikely to be overturned and the project could shut the door.
The lawsuit is separate from a 2020 decision by the US Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit for the mine under the traditional federal permitting process. The Corps said the mine was not in the public interest. Mine developer Pebble Limited Partnership is appealing this decision. The EPA’s decision would overrule any conclusions the Corps had reached on the project.
The mine property, located on state land, spans the headwaters of the Bristol Bay region approximately 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. It is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery valued at an estimated $2 billion.
Conservation and tribal groups have argued that pollution from the mine will destroy fisheries, leading them to urge the EPA to use its special authority under the Clean Water Act to stop the mine.
Proponents say it can coexist with the fisheries without harming them and that the mine could open up a region of Alaska containing hundreds of billions of dollars worth of minerals, create new jobs and help the state’s struggling economy.
The project has been in the works for decades after exploration began in the 1980’s. Its history was marked by a rollercoaster of events, including attempts to stop it under three US presidents, video leaks that led to the resignation of its chief executive officer in 2020, and overwhelming public opposition to the EPA comment deadlines project.
Pebble Limited Partnership has long argued that the mine is safe to build and has threatened to sue the EPA if it completes the veto projects.”
2022 Anchorage Daily News.
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Citation: EPA Regional Administrator recommends killing the Pebble mine to set the stage for a final veto (2022 December 2) retrieved December 2, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022- 12-epa-regional-administrator-pebble-stage.html
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