Northern Dynasty's (TSE:NDM) proposed Pebble Mine hears from local residents on Tuesday when the results of a referendum will be announced.
Residents in southwest Alaska, the Lake and Peninsula Borough, are being asked to ban the granting of mine permits that could significantly impact salmon streams. Bristol Bay is a prolific salmon spawning area, which supports many commercial salmon operators.
And while a successful referendum would be a set back to Pebble mine, the referendum results are not the last word on whether the mine gets built. It is one of many decision points that the mine has to face. Regulatory bodies, the judiciary and other levels of government still have to weigh in.
According to Pebble Partnership, a lobbying group supporting the proposed mine, the area contains 80.6 billion lbs. of copper, 5.6 billion lbs. of molybdenum, and 107.4 million oz. of gold. The Pebble project is currently in a pre-feasibility and pre-permitting research stage. If the mine goes ahead, Pebble Partnership says it will bring the economically depressed region 1,000 high-skill, high-wage operation jobs and 2,000 construction-phase jobs.
Save Bristol Bay, a group lobbying against the project, maintains that the proposed mine runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay.
Located in a seismically active region, Pebble would require the world’s largest earthen dam to be built, some 700 feet high and several miles in length. Independent scientists have questioned whether the dam could withstand the force of a massive earthquake, such as the 9.2 quake that devastated Anchorage in 1964.
The dam and 10-square-mile-wide containment pond are intended to hold between 2.5 billion and 10 billion tons of mine waste that Pebble would produce over its lifetime – nearly enough to bury the city fo Seattle, WA. Because the sulfide, or acid-generating, nature of the Pebble ore body, the waste would require environmental treatment in perpetuity. Any release of mine waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to harm Bristol Bay’s salmon runs.
Jack Caldwell from I THINK MINING has written about his concerns about the tailings dam.
Image of Bristol Bay from echoforsberg's photostream