Pebble Mine 101

3 08 2008

I, like all Alaskans have been inundated with information on Pebble Mine. I get stuff in the mail both for and against. I see ads for and against. I’ve gone and listened to presentations for and against.

I made up my mind long before most of the media maelstrom began. Why? Because I was a Geology minor in college. This goes to show that not only am I NOT an expert, but that you actually don’t need to be and expert to see disaster written all over this little mining experiment. I remember one of my geology classes was entitled “Earth Resources”. I was expecting to learn all about precious metals, gemstones, oil and coal, but ultimately realized that 90% of the class would focus on groundwater. One of the big giveaways was that the title of the textbook for the class was actually…yes… “Groundwater”. Not very exciting, I thought. I stuck it out despite my disappointment, and spent one entire semester immersed (if you will) in all things groundwater – water tables, filtration, wells, direction of flow, topographical maps, and most of all contamination. After the 80th test question that asked: “If Farmer A dumped X amount of chemical Y in his well, according to the topographical map, how long would it take to contaminate Farmer B’s well?”, I realized something. The answer was always, much faster than you think, and with much less than you think.

Not being a Farmer, and having neither a well nor a vengeful nature, I felt certain I would never need or use this information. I was wrong. The fates have delivered me the opportunity to actually utilize my semester’s worth of time, and calculator batteries, to vote a confident YES on Proposition 4.

If you need any further convincing:

The proposed Pebble Mine site is located at the headwaters that flow into the Nushagak River, Lake Iliamna, and Bristol Bay (home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery). You don’t need to be an expert to understand that contaminants, like the water they are in, tend to flow downstream. Oh, yes…and the mine’s giant earthen dam holding all those contaminants in, is also located on a fault line.

According to the EPA, mining has contaminated the headwaters of 40% of watersheds in the Western United States. FORTY percent. Are you willing to risk the Nushagak River, Lake Iliamna and Bristol Bay on those odds? Not me.

What about other similar hard rock mines? Well, a recent study of 25 modern hard rock mines showed that 76% exceeded water quality standards. SEVENTY SIX PERCENT. This is not a pretty picture.

But aren’t the locals clamoring for all those great mining jobs? No. In the only poll taken of Bristol Bay residents, 71% opposed the Pebble Mind Project and only 20% were in support. Why? Because they live there, and because they are apparently astute. Maybe they took a geology course.

I confess I’m still puzzled about those who feel that voting against the Clean Water Initiative is a good idea. Is it the blatant brainwashing from “Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown”? No…remember the cruise ship tax? We figured out then that the side with all the money is usually not the side looking out for the little guy. Mining jobs? Maybe…but there are lots of great jobs on the slope too. My friend has one. He lives in Las Vegas. And when you stack up mining jobs, benefitting from a non-renewable resource against a LOT of fishing jobs, benefitting from a very renewable resource, is there really a question?

And don’t we all think that Alaska fishing families have been screwed enough lately? Not only did the Exxon Valdez disaster wipe out fisheries in Prince William Sound, but lately they’ve been nickel and diming fisherman to death….literally. 20% of the plaintiffs in the Exxon Valdez case are no longer living. And now we’ve got a supreme court that has in effect told large corporations that when they destroy an Alaskan fishery, their punitive damages don’t actually have to be punitive. Getting nervous? You should be, because the toxins that will come from Pebble Mine can’t be contained with floating booms.

So let’s see if you’re ready for your Earth Resources quiz. There are 2 questions.

Q #1): If mining conglomerate A, dumps X amount of contaminat Y into the ground, according to the topographical map, how long will it take to contaminate Fishery B and the people who depend on it?

A: Much faster than you think, and with much less than you think.

Q#2): What can you do about it?

A: On August 26th, vote “Yes on 4 and Yes for Fish” (and the people that love them).



25 06 2008

Well, the extremely predictable ruling came down from the U.S. Supreme Court today. In a 5-3 vote the court decided to hack and slash the original $5 billion, which had already been hacked and slashed to $2.5 billion in punitive damages owed to Prince William Sound fishermen and Alaska Natives affected by the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill to $507.5 million.

First, condolences to the 32,677 plaintiffs, their families, and all those affected by the spill who have been waiting and watching for almost 20 years, while lawyers get fat sucking on the marrow of the oil soaked bones littering the beaches of Prince William Sound. This was hard to take for ALL Alaskans, but for the plaintiffs, and all those who love the Sound, it was twisting the knife.

Second, to all those people who have bought into the idea that the oil companies have been good to Alaska by donating to charities, sponsoring sporting events, and plastering their logos on anything that doesn’t move (and some things that do), listen closely. They. Don’t. Care. Exxon has been fighting this since the moment the $5 billion was awarded to plaintiffs in 1994. Think that’s a lot of money? It’s not. Exxon’s recorded profits last year were $40.6 Billion. That’s PROFIT. Doesn’t make $507.5 million sound particularly punitive, does it? If the health, well-being and welfare of the Alaska people mattered to Exxon Mobil, these people would have been paid 13 years ago. So when you see the oil companies doing something that looks ‘nice’, remember it’s a cost of doing business to shut us up.

Third, any Alaskans who are outraged by this announcement today and are still planning to vote Republican in the upcoming presidential race – wake up. Who were the only supreme court justices voting with the Alaska people and against the interest of corporations? The progressives. Who were the ones that voted against the interest of Alaska? Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, & crew – those conservative judges that John McCain wants more of when he appoints the next 2 or 3 members of the court. Presidents are gone in four to eight years; Supreme Court justices last a lifetime. A court like this is what we get when so many Americans and Alaskans swallow the red Kool Aid, and don’t think about the political ramifications of their votes to their own interest when the chips are down. So, in November, think. Please.

By the time all is said and done a huge portion of the $507.5 million has evaporated with the shrinking value of the dollar since 1989, another huge portion went to the lawyers, 8000 of the plaintiffs are dead, and the Sound has still not recovered, and won’t in our lifetime. They got about 10% of the oil, they think. Sometimes in life, you get a cheap lesson…this wasn’t one of those times.

Don’t forget this when they tell you Pebble Mine won’t destroy the Bristol Bay fishery. Don’t forget this every time we negotiate with the oil companies about anything. Don’t forget this every time you see a warm fuzzy TV commercial, or see oil company logos every time you turn around. Don’t forget that anyone in our state to develop finite natural resources is here for the money. Period. And don’t forget this when you vote in November.