Extension of the scoping process has been requested by the state of Alaska for an environmental impact statement on the proposed Pebble mine bordering on the Bristol Bay watershed.
“The scoping process will be extremely important to a thorough evaluation of environmental impacts from the proposed Pebble project,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Andrew T. Mack in a letter to Co. Michael Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Alaska District. Mack urged the Corps to take every opportunity to accept comments and suggestions from the public as the project moves forward.
Mack noted that the scoping period for the proposed Donlin mine in western Alaska included a National Environmental Policy Act review, led by the Corps., and lasted for 105 days, including 14 public meetings across western Alaska. The state of Alaska requests that the Corps follow a similar scoping process to that of the Donlin mine, Mack said.
Mack noted that the open pit Pebble mine would lie in close proximity to the headwaters of the world’s largest wild salmon fishery, which supports communities and subsistence activities in that region year-round. Due to the potential adverse impact of the proposed project, a 30-day scoping process is likely insufficient for the public to identify, and the Corps to address, issues of concern, studies needed and alternatives to be examined, Mack said.
While the Corps has conducted some outreach with tribes and stakeholders, including DNR, following scoping materials online ahead of the notice of intent to prepare the EIS, it does not relieve the Corps from offering a scoping period commensurate of the scale and importance of this project, he said.
Bristol Bay tribes have expressed disappointment and frustration over what they perceive as efforts by federal regulators to fast-track the Pebble Limited Partnership’s application to build the mine.
Alannah Hurley, executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said a 30-day scoping period for a project this size was “absurd,” and would not allow for meaningful opportunity to provide critical input on how area residents could be impacted. The current Corps plan calls for only six hearings in the Bristol Bay region.
In a related action, 50 fishing and hunting firms and organizations with a stake in healthy Bristol Bay fisheries sent a letter to First Quantum Minerals, of Toronto, Canada, on April 3, urging that company to withdraw financial support for the project. The company is considering whether to sign an options agreement with Pebble miner backer Northern Dynasty Minerals, of Vancouver, British Columbia.