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Alaska Bristol Bay Mining Ban (2014)

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Bristol Bay Mining Ban
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Type:Initiated state statute
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Business regulation
Status:On the ballot

The Alaska Bristol Bay Mining Ban Question is on the August 19, 2014 primary election ballot in Alaska as an initiated state statute.[1] If approved by voters, the measure would give the legislature the power to prohibit mining projects in Bristol Bay if legislators determine the activity to be harmful to wild salmon within the fisheries reserve. The initiative is officially called "Bristol Bay Forever" by proponents.[2]

In the Lake and Peninsula Borough of Southwest Alaska, voters approved a local ballot measure to ban open-pit mining in the watershed of Bristol Bay. The 2014 statewide initiative seeks to allow state voters to have a say on the issue.[3]

Support

Arguments

  • Bobby Andrew, Yup’ik spokesman, said, "The commercial fishing industry is against it, the tourism industry is against it and the Native People within the region are totally against the project because without clean water and salmon in the region we won’t be able to survive. The basis of our whole diet is salmon."[4]

Reports and analyses

Environmental Protection Agency

A map of the Bristol Bay watershed, including the Pebble Mine location.
EPA Mine Scenario Assessments (Table 1)
Parameter Pebble 0.25 Pebble 2.0 Pebble 6.0
Miles of streams lost 24 miles 55 miles 94 miles
Miles of adverse streamflow 9.3 miles 17 miles 33 miles
Miles of streams toxic to fish 0 miles 14.9 miles 21.1 - 35.4 miles
Miles of streams toxic to invertebrates 13 miles 24.9 - 38.5 miles 37.3 - 51 miles
Wetlands reduction 1,200 acres 3,000 acres 4,900 acres
Ponds and lakes reduction 100 acres 230 acres 450 acres


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an assessment related to the “many but not all” impacts on salmonoid-related ecosystems that would be caused by the Pebble Mine. The EPA analyzed three possible ore production scenarios: (1) 0.25 billion tons produced over two decades; (2) 2.0 billion tons produced over two decades; and (3) 6.5 billion tons produced over two decades. The mining site’s claim-holder estimates that 11 billion tons could be produced over two decades. This estimation was not included in the EPA’s assessment. Table 1 is a limited selection from the administration's published findings.[5]

Table 1 does not take into account “indirect affects” reported by the EPA, such as reduced food resources, reduced winter fish habitat, less suitable waters for spawning and rearing and seasonal water temperature modifications. The EPA also reported a wide range of potential mining-related infrastructure failures, including, but not limited to, tailings dams leaking or bursting, chemical concentrate spill into streams or wetlands, diesel pipeline spill, culvert failure, truck accidents and post-mine site abandonment leaks. The mine footprints would have direct and indirect local effects on brown bears, wolves, bald eagles and other wildlife that consumer salmon, as well as the aquatic and terrestrial nutrient cycle.

There are two indigenous salmon-based societies in the watershed, the Yup’ik and the Dena’ina. Salmon are an important foundation for both tribes’ biophysical and social reproduction, as salmon play a role in their languages, religions and cultures. According to the EPA, the mine would likely force tribal fishing and hunting practices to change in response to the mine’s ecological footprint. The mine could severely damage the salmon population, causing a decline in a tribe’s nutrition and health.[5]

To read the executive summary, see here.

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Alaska

Supporters of the initiative effort submitted 30,169 valid signatures by the January 9, 2014, thereby qualifying their measure for the 2014 statewide primary ballot.

See also

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References