And that's if everything goes well.
Maximum Mine Foot PrintUnder 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!
- 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!
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
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?