EPA study of hypothetical copper mine divides backers, foes
By Jeff Rhodes | OlympiaReport.com
Dozens of environmental activists, commercial fishermen and sportsmen took turns testifying on Thursday during a three-hour public hearing in opposition to a plan to develop a large-scale mining operation within Alaska’s sprawling Bristol Bay Watershed.
By comparison, only a handful mine supporters spoke out. But that could be because the plan in question exists at this point only in the mind of government regulators.
The hearing was the first of nine the Environmental Protection Agency plans to hold to solicit public comment on a study it conducted to determine the environmental impact of a large-scale mining operation in the Bristol Bay area, which boasts the largest runs of wild salmon on earth and supports a commercial fishing industry that generates well over $300 million a year.
The catch is, no one has formally submitted a plan for anything yet. And for the EPA to pre-emptively conduct its own study based on nothing more than conjecture is a naked attempt to abort the project before it can even get started, mining proponents say.
“The clear evidence is that the EPA has relied substantially upon advocacy materials prepared by environmental groups to inform its science,” said Sean Magee, spokesman for Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns 50 percent of the potential mining project.
“The combination of assessing a hypothetical mine plan,” he said, “leaning heavily on environmental activists for scientific information and refusing to fully consider the scientific work completed by (the developers) as part of its Environmental Baseline Document, has contributed in no small part to the deep flaws inherent in this document.”
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