Congress Revisits Mine Permitting

Another congressional oversight hearing was convened in
Washington DC this morning by the House Committee on Natural Resources,
regarding the National Environmental Policy Act’s role in permitting projects,
including the Pebble mine.
Witnesses included Tom Collier, chief executive officer of
the Pebble Partnership, the subsidiary of British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty
Minerals, which wants to build and operate the mine.
The witness list also includes Kim Williams, executive
director of Nunamta Aulukestai, the Dillingham, Alaska, entity working with
village corporations and tribal governments for responsible land and water
management in the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of
wild sockeye salmon.
“Pebble is not supported by Alaskans and shouldn’t be given
a stage by lawmakers in DC, especially behind our backs and during our busiest
time of the year,” said Melanie Brown, a veteran fish harvester, who was
already out in her boat on Bristol Bay pulling in salmon. Brown called the
hearing “a sneak attack, bait and switch that shows how out of touch the
committee members are with Alaska.
“We are working non-stop this time of year to make sure our
boats and nets are ready to catch fish that feed not only our families and
support our businesses, while a foreign mining company gets another pointless
hearing,” she said.
Representatives of 15 national sportsmen’s organizations
also signed a letter sent to Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop,
R-Utah, expressing their concern that Pebble mine backers continue to get a
political stage to promote the mine, particularly at this time of year. “We
just need Pebble to go away so we can run our businesses without a giant threat
hanging over our shoulders,” said John Holman, a lodge owner on the Kvichak
River, in a statement released by the Bristol Bay sportsmen’s group.

Mine backers contend that the massive copper, gold and
molybdenum mine can be built and operated in harmony with the salmon fishery. Extensive
testimony compiled by the US Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that
there is great potential risk of adverse effects on salmon habitat in the
Bristol Bay watershed if the mine is developed.