KUCB KIAL Unalaska Community Broadcasting

Raider Reflections: Should We Allow It?

Mar 13, 2017

In Alaska, one of our main incomes is from fishing. Bristol Bay is the largest spawning sight in Alaska for wild sockeye salmon. Many commercial fishermen, seafood processors, locals, etc. harvest the sockeye salmon runs each year.The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) helps make rules and restrictions to protect important sights like Bristol Bay from further development that may hurt the environment.Over a decade ago, Pebble Mine, a mineral exploration project, wanted to look for ore in Bristol Bay near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. In 2014, after battling the EPA in court and having 65% of Alaskan voters disagree with large-scale mining, the Obama Administration put the Pebble Mine project that proposes mining in Bristol Bay on hold.In February 2017, the EPA was urged by the U.S. House committee to reverse the agency’s plans on limiting the development in Bristol Bay for the Pebble Mine project.

Pebble Mine is claiming to provide well-paying jobs to the locals and to help Alaska’s economy financially, but the salmon run in Bristol Bay already supports about 75% of local jobs, which equals over14,000 jobs. It also helps the Alaskan economy by creating about $1.5 billion of revenue per year. Fish can also be a renewable resource if it is maintained, but resources like minerals in the ground will eventually run out. Mining the ore thought to be under the ground in the Bristol Bay region will only create jobs for so long. Once the ore is exploited from the ground, thousands could be without a job. The Bristol Bay salmon run already has what the Pebble Mine offers, and if the land is maintained, then the salmon run can continue to create jobs and income for generations to come.

The Pebble Mine company has also claimed to be capable of mining in the Bristol Bay region without damaging Bristol Bay’s water. Despite this, many Alaskans are worried about environmental risks.Many local families and fishermen rely on the salmon run to help support not only their income, but their way of life. If the water in the rivers and streams is taken care of, the salmon run will be sustainable for generations. If the ore is mined from Bristol Bay, then not only will people be without jobs once there is nothing left to mine, but the land will unavoidably be damaged. Chemicals used while mining to separate gold and copper deposits from other rocks are also very hazardous to the environment. The toxic chemicals would have to be stored, most likely on-sight of the mine,permanently. Sockeye salmon have the biggest run of the year in Bristol Bay, and if the environment is too polluted to spawn in, then not only will the state’s income suffer, but the ecosystem could too.

The fact is, even if the Pebble Mine company does not admit to the inevitability of handling the environment, it will still have a negative and permanent effect on Alaska. The land will still be torn apart, minerals in the soil will be taken, risking long term jobs for temporary ones, and the mining waste would have to be stored on-site forever. With the new administration cutting the EPA funding for limiting environmental regulations and deregulating them, all the Pebble company has to do is get necessary federal sign-offs to be able to get their project passed. There is just too much risk in allowing Pebble to mine for resources in Bristol Bay. We can make sure the next generation will be able to profit from the salmon run like we have. Ask yourself: Is allowing Pebble Mine to dig up one non-renewable resource in exchange for another long-term resource really worth it?Help spread awareness, speak up and share your opinion.