Panel Discussions on Pebble Mine Science Under Way In Anchorage

Several days of panel discussions aimed at validating the science
compiled by proponents of the proposed Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska are under
way in Anchorage, and will continue though next week.
The sessions at the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska
Anchorage campus are being conducted by the Keystone Center, an independent nonprofit
group based in Colorado, hired by the Pebble Limited Partnership.
According to Keystone, the purpose of the dialogue is to assess
the credibility and sufficiency of Pebble’s science through an independent scientific
review, and then make that information available to government agencies, environmental
organizations, and others with interest in the project.
Opponents of the massive mining project at the headwaters of
the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon run, are not
buying that.
About 100 Bristol Bay residents, fishermen, hunters and anglers
turned out for the opening panel discussion Oct. 2, making their opposition clear
to panelists and then to a crowd gathered outside the library for a rally in opposition
to the mine.
The thousands of pages of documents compiled by the Pebble Limited
Partnership don’t come close to providing the transparency and neutrality offered
by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing watershed assessment process, said
Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska program.
The EPA has spent the last 18 months independently assembling
an assessment of the impact that mining would have on the region.
Mine opponents have also strongly criticized a decision by Keystone
to dismiss University of Washington professor Daniel Schindler as a panelist, after
inviting him to serve on the fisheries panel.
Keystone’s Todd Bryan said that his organization is simply following
National Research Council policies regarding bias and conflict of interest and that
Schindler has written op-ed pieces that violate the bias policy.
“How can you have an honest conversation when you exclude one
of the world’s foremost experts on this fishery?” asked Sam Snyder of the Alaska
Conservation Foundation.
Schindler’s comments that Keystone found objectionable were contained
in a commentary written by Schindler and Norm Van Vactor, general manager for Leader
Creek fisheries, which was published online on the Crosscut website in June.
“There is clear evidence that mining activities and the infrastructure
development needed to support these activities pose significant long-term risks
to productive salmon ecosystems,” they said.