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Gold mine, or trout and salmon? Which do you prefer?

Discussion in 'U.S. Politics' started by PLC1, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. PLC1

    PLC1 Moderator Staff Member

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    This is a hot topic in Alaska, but not in the lower 48, where most of the voters reside.

    What do you think of a mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay drainage?



    Read more here

    On a fishing trip to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho, I made two discoveries: More gold has been mined in Idaho than in California, and the trout in the rivers in that area have so much mercury in their tissues that they are unfit to eat.

    The Renewable Resources Coalition (i.e., fisheries rather than mining) has this to say about the Pebble Mine:


    Meanwhile, Alaskans are being bombarded by a multimillion dollar advertising campaign promoting this mine.

    While environmental organizations in the lower 48 are opposing oil exploration in the ANWR, and have made that a hot button issue, practically no one outside Alaska has even heard of the Pebble Mine.

    This area doesn't just belong to the Alaskans. It belongs to all of us. It's time that 300 million Americans supported the 683 thousand Alaskans in opposing this disaster.
     
  2. GenSeneca

    GenSeneca Well-Known Member

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    Gold mine.. Totally the Gold Mine, its a good idea.

    I don't eat fish so I could care less about what happens to trout and salmon.

    That's the logic used by non-smokers who support ever rising taxes on tobacco... "I don't smoke so raising taxes on tobacco is a good idea. I get only the benefits from such a decision without any of the negative impact."

    “Be wary of the man who urges an action in which he himself incurs no risk…” - Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)
     
  3. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Have you already assumed it's going to be a disaster? You likely already know my position. Namely the view of the constitution. Which is that Alaska is the property of Alaskans. Not is it their right to determine what happens in their state, but also, they are more likely to know all the information about an issue that is happening in their back yard.

    As much as I disagree with Bunz on national policy matters, when it comes to many of the issues within his state, I'm more likely to concede to his greater knowledge of those issues.

    As to this report written about this issue, I have caught the media in lies so many times, so often, and blatantly, I'm not about to assume the way this article portrays the issues, is fair, unbiased, or even accurate. I'd have to a ton more research from a far greater number of sources, including what those for and against it are saying.
     
  4. Dr.Who

    Dr.Who Well-Known Member

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    If the mine is approved as not causing harm to the environment, i.e. not poisoning the fish, then by all means let private persons invest their money in it. But putting mercury in fish should not be allowed. Though since most of the mercury in fish comes from coal electric plants I don't see how the gold mine got put on the same table.

    The EPA will do a study on that, right? As long as the EPA knows what a pollutant is and what is not a pollutant then they should make this determination.

    Stopping people from harming other people (in this case by poisoning fish) is the job of the government. Though I would prefer a state government body to be responsible I could see how a fed body could have jurisdiction too.
     
  5. PLC1

    PLC1 Moderator Staff Member

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    Did you notice this part of the plan?

    Would you be willing to live downstream from the dams described if the EPA certified them to be safe?

    I'm not sure I have that much faith in the EPA.
     
  6. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Well granted, I completely understand your concern. The possibility of a dam collapse is clearly a real risk. I would say that would be true anywhere though. As far as theorized risk of earthquakes, Hover Dam has survived more than 600 earthquake shortly after construction, and hundreds more since.

    Could it still break? Of course. So could any Dam. Should we not build any dams then? I'm against any theory that we should not do anything for risk. Everything worth doing in life has risk.

    That said, this is a very remote location. Not exactly a hotbed of humanity. We're not talking about putting millions of people in the way of a massive dam. There are not that many people in that area.

    Beyond that, from what I gather, most of the supposed evidence that mining has massive negative effects on the surrounding environment, is from older mines using older technologies. Most new mines are much more clean. It also depends on what the primary mined resource is. Copper and Gold are not huge hazards like Nickle.

    Do I trust the EPA? Um... do I trust anything government? Not really, but in this case EPA has more reason to lie against the dams, than for them. I remember reading about how the administration requested the Census Bureau do a report estimating how much coal was left in the US. After the first researcher suggested there was at least 200 years of known coal, and hundreds more years worth of yet discovered coal, Carter ordered the guy removed, and a new researcher selected to come up with more politically useful numbers.

    The EPA is far more likely to lie that a Dam is horrible, than to pass it when it isn't.
     
  7. PLC1

    PLC1 Moderator Staff Member

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    These are earth filled dams, holding back not water, but toxic waste, in an active earthquake zone, and above an ecosystem that is worth more than the gold that might be mined, even if you only look at the situation in dollars and cents. It is risking a greater asset in order to develop a lesser one. That makes sense only if you stand to gain from the lesser, but don't stand to lose from the greater.

    It is like me taking a $20 from you, and putting it on the craps tables. If I win, I keep the winnings. If I lose, I lose nothing.

    Sound like a good deal to you?
     
  8. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    OK, Im gonna chime in here, I was waiting until a few posts were in the thread before I did so. This is a topic I have been involved heavily with locally. Also, for the record those who have debated me, know that I am not an anti-development greenie. I have said for a long time that ANWR could and should be developed. I also generally dont have a problem with large scale mining. There are several examples in Alaska in very different locations where the impact mining has is minimal. Pebble is a different beast altogether.

    The most controversial proposal in my entire life. While I wasnt alive when the pipeline was being proposed, which was also controversial at the time but for other reasons. The biggest being the land settlement/ownership status at the time that has been since figured out.

    Pebble is controversial for several reasons. Firstly the nature and scale of the mining involved, which would be a massive pit mine, while it might not be as deep as the Bingham Canyon Mine in Utah, the foot print will be larger. The pit itself will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2miles by 5miles, and 3000 feet deep. The actual footprint of the pit would be over 5,000 acres, on the surface.
    To put this all into perspective, the two drainages in question, the Nushagak(where I live along) and the Kvichak(pronounced Kwee-jack) rivers support the largest communities in the region, and the economic engine for these communities, and subsistence staple has been the fish in these rivers.
    They are the largest salmon runs in the world, and the commercial fisheries alone bring in upwards of 100million worth of salmon annually.

    The commercial fisheries are certified sustainable, and have very strict guidelines on spawning escapement. The waters are also bountiful for subsistence users, who can catch enough salmon for thier families to survive all year.

    There is also a considerable sport fishing/tourism industry. Where the trout and salmon fishing is simply the best in the world. The size, volume and variety of fish, mixed in with dramatically beautiful terrain, and abundant wildlife, cause thousands of people to travel from all over the world to take part.

    While mercury will be an issue, there are plenty of other toxins to be concerned about. Arsenic, and yellow boy(acid mine drainage) being other major concerns. But it has also been shown that a change in copper content at the atomic level(1 part per billion) in water negatively effects juvenile salmon and adult salmon in finding thier home waters.
    Then there is the issue of the amount of water the mine needs to operate. When it comes to salmon spawning water quantity is as important as water quality.


    The pebble partnership(Northern Dynasty minerals&Anglo American plc) spent 11million dollars by far the most ever spent on a political campaign in AK to defeat a ballot proposition to make the water quality laws in Alaska tighter when it comes to mining discharges.
    Awareness is increasing. Especially among fisherman/woman.
    This is quite true. If any of you ever eat salmon, or appreciate the joys of fishing, and wild and pure rivers and waterways, I would suggest you read more into the issues at hand here, that could mean something more personal for yourselves and your neck of the woods.
     
  9. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Well said.
     
  10. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Well considering the track record of this sort of development, the chances are better than most that very bad things could happen.
    Well thanks, but we arent always that far apart, you just have to learn when someone is playing devils advocate with you. ;)
    Fair enough and I dont disagree. I will say that I have sat in on some fairly high level meetings and negotiations with the Pebble folks, and I have found them to be, on a business level, and personal level, at times very misleading, willing to make concessions to push the mine through and at times flat out liars. If I can say something about the media involvement here...the Anchorage Daily News has a reporter that has been the most prominent media personell on the issue, her name is Elizabeth Bluemink, and she has actually been well above average in her fairness in reporting. I would consider her journalistic credibility to be among the best out there.
     
  11. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Mercury isnt the big issue, its the amount of river that will simply contain no water, the copper dust, and of course acid mine drainage.
    No, the mining companies do a study and submit it to the EPA, and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. There are several problems with this, firstly, the people doing the study are often underqualified for the undertaking they are tasked with. Then of course there is the obvious potential for a bias as you can probably understand. The other problem is the it is the role of the DNR to develop the mineral resources in Alaska, and the Department of Fish and Game are largely left out of the subject.
    They both do, and there is a pending decision from the USSC on another mine in Alaska near Juneau called Kensington that would also have a certain precedence on what might happen at pebble.
    But politics also plays a major role in this. A Governor could easily sign into law an executive order that would strenghten the permitting process, but Governor Palin has not done so, and is dealing with an ethics complaint over her statements concerning the ballot measure I mentioned earlier. Whereas a Governor and the state is supposed to remain strictly neutral on ballot measures, Sarah thought she could make the statement against the ballot measure by claiming before she said so "Im gonna take my Governors hat off"

    Also, the fact that Pebble is potentially spending 10s of millions of dollars at her mother in laws hardware store might have something to do with it.
     
  12. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    As was mentioned, this isnt a concrete dam designed for electricty generation, and irrigation and water usage purposes. This is an earthen dam, 3 of them, designed to be the biggest in the world, holding back enough cyanide tainted water and rock to kill literally tens of millions of people.
    As for the earthquake issue you mention at Hoover, we are talking about to very different things. We are talking about an area with dozens of living volcanos whose sceizmic activity could crumble these dams. They would be built to sustain up to about a 6.5 earthquake. In the meantime, there are numerous quakes bigger than that every decade.
    I dont disagree, but in my opinion, and %85 of the other residents of the region say that this isnt worth the risk.
    Well not millions of people, I will give you that, less than 10,000 to be realistic. But certainly us 10,000 people matter, I dont think you would disagree with that. We matter, and so does our main source of food, and industry.
    Copper mines, especially the type in question are a very low grade porphyry copper create an unimaginable amount of waste. 2.5 BILLION TONS of acid generating tailings.
    A few things, firstly, the biggest problem with the EPA is the enforcement of these sort of sites. These is not a single mining enforcement person from the EPA in AK. There are a few for the oil industry, but when it comes to mines, they are based in Seattle, and never have the chance to do a routine patrol.

    There have also been some dramatic failures of tailings dams, in January 2009 there was the coal ash spill in Tennessee, in 2000 I believe, there was a tailings dam failure very similar to what would be developed at Pebble in Romania, that utterly destroyed a tributary of the Danube. There are a few other examples.

    Also, the other problem is with the reclamation bonds required in Alaska and throughout the United States. Andy, as someone who is always wanting to minimize government spending, you might want to know that Pebble is very likely to become the biggest superfund site in the nation.
     
  13. Dr.Who

    Dr.Who Well-Known Member

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    I don't particularly trust any branch of government highly. Nor do I trust the media to police the government well.

    But this at least is the way the system is supposed to work. gov does have a role. It needs to be kept confined to its role but when a situation is within that proscribed role it is our job to support the gov and the media and the other checks and balances to to do it as well as it can.

    I suppose that your complaints about this issue are a part of those checks and you have done a good job of raising awareness, at least on this forum.
     
  14. Andy

    Andy Well-Known Member

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    Then you likely should vote it down.

    I am curious if you know of any other mines that have killed off the wild life, and wiped out a population. I personally do not.

    From what I have read, modern copper mines are relatively clean. Hopefully this isn't from environmental wackos, that you are getting this information. What does the company and the EPA say? If 2.5 billion tons of acid is unaviodable, I can't see how the EPA would pass it.

    It's interesting to read up on this. Of course this isn't a topic I'm well familar with. The bad part is, I have yet to hear the other half of the argument, which for me is very important before establishing my view on a subject.

    However given what I know thus far, I think I would push for a reduced plan. Not quite as large, and not quite as risky. But once again, I still see this as a completely Alaskan issue. Since I'm not from Alaska, I don't consider my views all that important.
     
  15. Dr.Who

    Dr.Who Well-Known Member

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    I guess when it comes down to it the only thing I object to about this thread is that it presupposes a forced dichotomy in which the only choices are a gold mine and the destruction of trout and salmon OR no gold mine and healthy trout and salmon.

    It just does not seem like it would be that hard for a gold mine to coexist with healthy trout and salmon. And there are all sorts of forces pushing for just that.
     
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