Wednesday, May 23, 2012

EPA Socialists try to stop Pebble Mine!

The EPAs assessment of the impact of mining on Bristol Bay Salmon populations was published last week. I encourage you all to download it and give it a read. The short story is that the Salmon and people of Bristol Bay are screwed if large scale hardrock mining is allowed in the area.

And that's if everything goes well.

Maximum Mine Foot Print
Under the "maximum mine footprint" scenario:
  • 87 miles of streams are blocked; reduced flow to an additional 6.2 miles of stream.
  • Elimination of 4,286 acres of wetlands (to give you a sense of scale that's 535 Fenway Parks)
  • Indirect effect on downstream streams and wetlands
  • Diminished habitat at stream crossings of the access road (34 crossings)
Again, that's best case; everything operates nominally and there are no significant events.

Holy Dam Failure, Batman!
Of course, if problems occur, we could see things like:
  • A failure of the 700 foot tall dam (a little bit taller than the Washington Monument) that would immediately kill 30 km of stream and would poison the stream and connected waterways for decades.
  • Leaking slurry or water return pipelines would cause localized destruction of streams and habitat.
  • Culvert blockages during spawning season could kill year classes of Salmon for these streams.
In addition to the direct impact on fish, wildlife that relies upon fish and the biomass from the Salmon runs, bears, moose, caribou and all the other 40 mammals and 190 bird species in the area would decline.

And finally, but certainly not least, is the impact on the lives and livelihoods of indigenous peoples who have been living in this area for over 4,000 years and seem pretty fond of eating.

But wait, there's more!
And then multiply the odds of a problem not by 25 years or 78 years or even 100 years but by forever cause that's how long all this will need to be maintained and operate flawlessly.

Operate flawlessly for forever. What the hell are the odds of that?

But the icing on this turd cake is on page 16 at the bottom of the table.

There are two failures that are rated either "high" probability or "certain" probability and they are summarized as follows: once the mine closes this thing is going to start filling with water and leaking vile poisons. That's right, no matter how well things go for the next century, once it closes this thing will start poisoning the watershed with certainty.*

Let's say that again slowly:

According to the EPA, a mine in this region will poison the watershed with certainty.

If you need a good example of how gracefully these sorts of mines close down look no further than Butte, Montana. I may have to visit if I get a chance to go to Yellowstone this summer. The Berkeley Pit, about half the size of the Pebble Mine pit, is a mile long, thousand foot deep pit filled virtually to the brim with acid.

This thing has been filling with water for the past thirty years and it'll overflow sometime in the next decade. Of course, you'd expect that they'd be ready with Plan B. But they're not. They're monitoring the situation closely but they have no plans to manage the water level. That's the plan. That's the kind of plan we can expect at Pebble Mine.

But if you call in the next thirty minutes we'll double triple quadruple the offer
Then multiply all this by four -- there are three additional mine sites, Big Chunk, Groundhog Mountain and Humble that would add another 15,000 acres of eliminated wetlands and another 70 miles of blocked streams.

And presumably three more certain sources of acidic ruin.

Act Now!
The EPA can stop this now (or at least punt it to the courts). Get your fingers over to the Save Bristol Bay website and submit a letter to the President and Congress urging them to take action. It takes all of two minutes and your voice needs to be added to the loyal opposition.

* Update: Over breakfast this morning I read the relevant sections of the longer, 338 page document. Here's the quote on the certainty issue: "During a planned post-closure period, the probability of a collection or treatment failure would continue to be high, and would be less likely to be detected and stopped quickly because of the lower level of activity and oversight. Finally, if the mine is closed prematurely or post-closure water management ended, the discharge of untreated water would become inevitable." How poisonous would that water be? Who knows. Again, I think Berkeley Pit is probably a good proxy; highly acidic.

Another update: Note the last sentence.

"Pre-Tertiary waste rocks are acid-forming with high copper concentrations in test leachates (i.e., they would require 2,900- to 52,000-fold dilution [Editor: this means that leaking fluid would require up to a 52,000 fold dilution to meet Clean Water Act standards]). If leachate from a waste rock pile surrounding the  mine pit was not collected, the 10.6 million m3 of leachate per year from the waste rock pile could constitute source water for Upper Talarik Creek, which flows to Iliamna Lake. The total flow of Upper Talarik Creek would provide only 18-fold dilution [Editor: as opposed to the required 52,000 fold required dilution] so the entire creek and a potentially large mixing zone in the lake could be toxic to fish and the sensitive invertebrates upon which they feed. The runs of sockeye and coho salmon in Upper Talarik Creek would be jeopardized by even a day-long event." [emphasis added]

So, how likely do you think a day long event is in the next forever years?


  1. Your labels say it all...die pebble mine, kill pebble mine, suck it pebble mine

    Great post. There is so much wrong with this proposal it's sickening. I know that there is a long way to go, but it was good to see the EPAs report highlight and confirm what Pebble's opponents have been screaming for so long...

    No Pebble!

    1. Thx Sanders. Yeah, it's nice to see something actually happening. Still too early to tell if the ball's rolling in the right direction but the noises seem positive.

  2. I intend to operate flawlessly forever. So far, so good.

  3. Very well said my friend. Let's hope that in the end, smarter heads prevail. Stop Pebble Mine!!

  4. Even I'm against Pebble Mine. I think most Conservative Sportsmen that know about it are...but if you want to create a rift, ...

    1. My goal isn't to move anyone who's for it to be against it, it's simply to mobilize the loyal opposition. As a Conservative Sportsman myself I've seen the vitriol and dogma of the opposition and like most things driven by dogma and vitriol (i.e. absent intellect) I prefer to just it lie (but of course I couldn't, cause there's another jab). If I can't have a bit of fun and let my sarcasm out once in a while I'm not sure I'd be here. Thanks for stopping by Owl and for supporting this important work.