Backers of the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum Pebble mine in Southwest Alaska say that they have submitted a compensatory mitigation plan to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, one they feel satisfies requirements for the mine.
According to Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty, the mitigation requirement demanded by the USACE set a high bar for offsetting project effects on wetlands and other aquatic features, but that their mitigation plan will reach that bar.
“Based on the findings of the final environmental impact statement we already know Pebble can operate safely and reliably, while fully protecting the water, fish and wildlife resources of Bristol Bay,” Thiessen said.
PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole in Anchorage, said that a copy would be posted on the USACE website once it was deemed complete. He declined to provide a copy of the plan submitted.
Mine opponents from Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, Trout Unlimited and SalmonState voiced criticism of the plan itself and the USACE.
“Any compensatory mitigation plan based on Pebble’s incomplete and inaccurate final environmental impact statement is inherently flawed,” said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “The fact is there is no measure of mitigation that could make up for the permanent destruction of water and wetlands that the Pebble mine would cause to Bristol Bay’s pristine, intact and irreplaceable salmon habitat.” Allowing the permitting process for the mine to proceed without further public input is just more evidence that the USACE is not looking out for Bristol Bay fishermen and communities, she said.
Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, said the PLP plan was another example of the USACE’s history of rubber stamping “mitigation” measures inconsistently and at times going against its own guidelines. Bristol noted that a number of independent mining experts and scientists had identified the final EIS on which the mitigation plan is based as fatally flawed.
The PLP’s mitigation plan “should be dead on arrival,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited.
Williams said that the Corps’ own final EIS shows that the proposed mine would harm over 191 miles of salmon streams and 4,614 acres of wetlands if phase one of the project advances, and that the majority of those impacts would be permanent.