Pebble Related Hearings Held in Southwest Alaska

EPA officials were in the Bristol Bay region again this week for two more hearings related to development of the Pebble Mine. This time it was on EPA’s proposal to withdraw proposed Clean Water Act restrictions for Pebble, which lies in the Bristol Bay watershed. The July 2014 decision in favor of the Clean Water Act Proposed Determination would, if finalized, have imposed restrictions on the discharge of dredged or fill material associated with Pebble mine.

Norm Van Vactor of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. said he thought the hearings went very, very well. There was an awful lot of testimony, he said, from small children to adults in need of translators. But Van Vactor also said it was frustrating to have to go back to the drawing board again.

“Sadly it can also be said that this isn’t about mining or minerals, he said. “It is about mining in the stock market and people making a play to make a lot of money quickly in the stock market and leaving other people holding the bag, he said. But meantime the rest of us have to spend a lot of time working on an issue that should be over and done with,” he said.

Pebble Partnership spokesman Mike Heatwole said he felt that the EPA heard a more balanced mix of views in Iliamna.

In a related manner, United Tribes of Bristol Bay and the Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission say they will announce their intent to formalize today their efforts to stop proposed mega-mines in their respective regions. Veteran Bristol Bay fisherman Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said they are uniting efforts to protect their peoples’ way of life from mega-mines threatening their continued existence.