Peer Review on Draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment

An independent panel of peer review scientists will gather in Anchorage Aug. 7-9 to examine the draft Bristol Bay watershed assessment that will figure in the future of major mine development like the Pebble mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is accepting comments through July 23 on what everyone thinks about the draft assessment and their thoughts on what else should be considered before the final assessment in completed.

Supporters of the mine say it can be safely developed and proceed in harmony with Bristol Bay fisheries. Opponents say it would have adverse effects that would be harmful to salmon habitat, affecting not only the salmon but the people and wildlife who depend upon it.

Depending on the conclusions drawn in the final assessment, the EPA could invoke a section of the Clean Water Act that would inhibit development of the mine.

Opponents and proponents of the mine have been quick to respond.

Ron Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., in Vancouver, British Columbia, a partner with Anglo American PLC in the Pebble Partnership, said this week that the EPA’s draft charge to peer reviewers is artificially narrow and will prohibit the peer reviewers from fully assessing whether the scope, methodology, underlying assumptions, data sources and analysis presented in that report are adequate to achieve the assessment’s stated purpose.

“We should all be very clear,” he said.

“This report is seeking to pass judgment on the development potential of America’s single greatest resource of copper, gold and molybdenum before any mine plan has been prepared or any permit application filed.”

Mine opponents, including Kim Williams, executive director of Nunumta Alukestai (Caretakers of the Land) responded to the Pebble Partnership’s criticism that the EPA had not given more consideration to the PLP’s extensive environmental baseline document.

“If Pebble wants their data peer reviewed, they should have it peer reviewed as a totally separate document,” Williams said. Getting it peer reviewed would be a good thing, she said, but not as part of the watershed assessment. That, she said, is the PLP’s job, not the EPA’s to do.

The EPA has posted online all the information the agency has on the subject to date, plus instructions on how to submit those comments, at