Thursday, July 30, 2009

Activity on Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay region

One of the more controversial state issues is the Pebble Mine, a potential copper/gold mine in Western Alaska - also the heart of one of the biggest salmon fisheries. Bristol Bay residents - Native and not - recently spoke out on the project, by way of a lawsuit saying the only public notice given on the Pebble Mine was by way of an Internet notice. Anyone who has spent time in even semi-rural Alaska knows the immediate problem that allows.

From the Arctic Sounder:

Cotton said the only public notice provided in several years of exploration was a “courtesy notice” posted on the Internet early this year and not mailed out, nor published in a newspaper. The notice doesn’t even mention Pebble by name, he said. Many in the region do not have access to Internet so they didn’t see the notice.

“The people in the region have reached a breaking point,” Cotton said.

Dillingham resident and Native elder Bobby Andrews spoke about protecting the natural resources because the concerns reach far into the future not only for him as a subsistence user but could also impact all users.

He said people in that region, especially concerning issues as water or mineral extraction, do not necessarily have the computer literacy to keep up with orders issued online by the Department of Natural Resources.

This should be interesting to watch where it goes.


Anonymous said...

Bobby Andrew is right, but I'll qualify that - it's not so much about computer skills, as it is that most households have neither computers nor Internet.

“The important point is that the cave walls and open pit walls act as an interface for water, sulfide and air. It is the actual hole in the ground that creates ‘acid mine drainage’, as much OR MORE than the waste rock. The ore has sulfide and the surrounding rock (host rock) has sulfide, too.
Removing the mining waste, tailings, etc. and taking it off-site, will NOT solve acid mine drainage issues. Underground mines are as much, OR MORE, of a risk for AMD as open-pit mines.”

Anonymous said...

Here’s the explanation.

“It is easy to briefly and accurately describe the dangers posed by metallic sulfide mining so that anyone can understand it:

A solid rock about the size of a softball has an exposed surface area that is several square inches. It will dissolve in water very, very slowly, and any chemical reactions involving the rock will proceed very slowly.

If that same rock is pulverized, the exposed surface area becomes measured in acres, not inches. And chemical reactions involving the rock will proceed relatively quickly.

When sulfide bearing ores are locked up in solid rock underground, the sulfide weathers very slowly, if at all and usually poses no danger.

However, when the ore body is mined, the sulfide bearing rock is crushed and even pulverized. When crushed sulfide rock is exposed to oxygen (air) and H2O (water), the automatic, inevitable chemical reaction produces sulfuric acid. Massive quantities of sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is the same stuff used in vehicle starting batteries.

The amount of acid produced depends on how much sulfide is there, and whether it is exposed to air and water. It doesn’t depend on the percentage of sulfide. It depends on the total quantity of sulfide in the exposed, crushed rock.

The sulfuric acid itself presents immediate toxic dangers to the watershed. And it also dissolves toxic heavy metals, which present their own dangers.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Do not let up educating people about the dangers of metallic sulfide mining. And keep saying SULFIDE whenever you say mining and Pebble.

Anonymous said...

The Wisconsin Metallic Sulfide Mining Moratorium Law…the law was passed by the state legislature, and signed by then-Governor Thompson.

The law, however, was the culmination of a hard fought struggle between the grass-roots coalition (of Native Americans, sports hunters and fishermen’s organizations, local and national environmental groups, labor unions, scientists and engineers, and tourist and outdoor sports related business) on the one hand, and the multi-national mining corporation lobbyists, on the other hand.

The effort to pass this law was inspired by a local school teacher who realized, from her research, that there had NEVER been a mine in a metallic sulfide ore body that had NOT resulted in severe toxic pollution. And so the coalition began to press for a bill that would prohibit ANY mine proposed for a metallic sulfide ore body from being permitted in Wisconsin unless the industry could show ONE suitable example of such a mine that had been operated for ten years, AND closed for ten years, that had not caused toxic pollution harmful to the watershed and the environment.

The industry lobbyists had lots of power, and lots of connections, and lots of money to distribute. Although they were unable to prevent the Metallic Sulfide Moratorium from becoming law, they were able to twist and subvert some of the language. One thing they did was change some of the original intent described in the paragraph above by changing a word at the last minute on the floor of the legislature. That little word change had the effect of letting the industry use two DIFFERENT mines as examples for the requirement that a mine had to have operated for at least ten years and been closed for at least ten years to qualify for review. The industry lobbyists snuck that little wording change into the proposed bill at the last minute because they knew a law was about to be signed, and they knew there was NO METAL SULFIDE MINE IN THE WORLD that could meet that criterion.

So, you see that the two conditions you so clearly highlighted in Wisconsin’s Moratorium Law were actually the result of last minute dirty tricks the industry lawyer/lobbyists pulled to help them make a loophole for themselves. (Despite this, they could not even later come up with examples that would fit through their own contrived loophole.)

The most important benefit of the metal sulfide mining moratorium struggle was how useful it was in educating so many Wisconsinites, in a relatively short time, of the specific, easily understood dangers of metal sulfide mining.

Read "The 21rst Century Bite of the Gold Bug”. The future of high tech metal sulfide mining may not be so far in the future, and indications are that it may likely include on-site use of genetically-modified organisms to cut processing costs lower, and increase profits.

This article is on, in the category “Mining”.

One last point, it appears to me (and it should be confirmed, as is important) that not only is the ore body of the Pebble deposit a sulfide ore, but the host rock itself is also sulfide-bearing.”

Pan productions said...

We are shooting a documentary on the effects of mining in Alaska. We will be in Anchorage this coming Monday(aug 10) to conduct interviews. Anyone interested?

Anonymous said...

It is easy to briefly and accurately describe the dangers posed by metallic sulfide mining so that anyone can understand it..

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