Alaska Wants More Time for Pebble Mine EIS

Alaska officials are asking that the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) extend its scoping period for an environmental impact statement on the proposed Pebble mine to at least 90 to 120 days, rather than the planned 30-day period.

The proposed copper, gold and molybdenum project would be adjacent to the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, the largest wild salmon fishery in the world, which supports the economy of Southwest Alaska, subsistence users and wildlife year-round.

“Due to the size and potential impact of the proposed mine, a 30-day scoping process is likely insufficient for the public to identify, and the USACE to address issues of concern, studies that are needed and alternative to be examined,” said Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Andrew Mack in his March 28 letter to Col. Michael Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Alaska District.

Mack specifically described the project as “an open pit mine, a mile across, near the headwaters of the most prolific salmon fishery in the world.”

He said that the scoping process would rightfully include several public meetings with those affected by the proposed project. “Western Alaska is not always easily accessible because travel is often affected by weather and distance,” Mack noted. “With multiple meetings scheduled across Alaska, should just one scoping meeting be delayed it could jeopardize the 30-day scoping process, so from a practical standpoint, a longer scoping period should be considered,” he added.

Mack reported that the scoping period for the proposed Donlin gold mine in western Alaska’s Yukon Kuskokwim region, which included a National Environmental Policy Act review led by the Corps, lasted from Dec. 14, 2012 to March 29, 2013, a total of 105 days. In that scoping process, the Corps conducted 14 public meetings across western Alaska, and the state requests that the Corps follow a similar scoping process for Pebble, Mack told the Corps.