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Thread: New Pebble Mine article...

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Default New Pebble Mine article...

    ...by Bruce Switzer, former head of environmental affairs for Cominco Ltd.

    Pebble Can't Work for Alaska

    An excerpt:
    Since 2008 Pebble has annually stated that permit applications are forthcoming next year. Five years later, it's still next year. Under the Alaska process Pebble had more than enough environmental information for permitting in 2009. Moreover, approval is foregone as far as the Department of Natural Resources and the administration are concerned. Contrary to Pebble and others, permitting in Alaska is easy -- witness Rock Creek. In fact, the archconservative Frazer Institute every year points to Alaska as one of the most mining friendly places on Earth. Pebble should have been in production two years ago.

    So, with commodities at record highs, why did Pebble delay permitting? I think it rediscovered what Cominco knew: Pebble is economically marginal and physically challenging. That's why Cominco sold it for peanuts and waived back-in rights.


    The reason for procrastination is simple. Pebble can't devise a mine plan that's profitable. Besides low-grade ore and water management issues, energy and workforce costs are very high. Compounding that, Anglo is in trouble: three CEOs in five years; looming nationalization and violence in its African mines; billions in cost overruns in Brazil; labor problems in Chile; a downgrade by S&P, and gold just took the worst two-day loss in 30 years.



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    Thanks for the article, Mark.

    You know, 4 years or so ago I grudgingly figured Pebble was a done deal, like it or not. But the last few years have been quite different, and hopefully this ridiculously stupid idea will not happen after all. It's by no means even close to over I realize, but between information such as what you posted, local adversity to the idea, the EPA's statements against the mine, etc...

    ...Well, maybe, just maybe the writing is on the wall.

    No Pebble.

    I hope.
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    My hopes parallel Hippies, but it would be foolish to get complacent. The Pebble proposal is a bad idea, no matter how you slice it. There is not enough lipstick in the world to dress up this pig.

    Another excerpt:
    For mine opponents, this is not good news. If Pebble decides to go into operation it will shave capital and operating costs to the bone. It will also sooner or later lobby for a new town and a publicly funded power plant and transmission line. It also means that as commodity prices continue falling, as they will, the possibility of abandonment becomes real.
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    The following excerpt was the one that jumped out at me:

    Mine permitting is neither rigorous nor scientific. Disagree? Name one mine that did not proceed because of review process rejection. Then name one open pit mine that does not have, or has not had, serious environmental problems.

    In reality, the permitting process is a sham.
    I wish it weren't so. I would love to see more development along the lines of Fort Knox, Red Dog, or Usibelli, but not at the risk of salmon and not under a regulatory system that has never turned down a proposed mine.

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    I've long been bringing up the power requirements of a mine like Pebble, and what that would really entail. Same thing for Donlin. The public is being sold a bill of goods for projects like Susitna Dam or other dams. They are not really intended to bring power to the railbelt or lower electrical costs. They are offsets really, state subsidized projects to benefit more large scale development projects. That one excerpt taiga posted nails it.

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    Another excerpt that gets to the meat of the issue.

    The risks are innumerable. Earthquake. Severe weather. Tailings dams fail. Pipelines rupture. Acid mine drainage is not always contained. Cyanide will be used. Mercury will be released from gold roasting and contaminate downwind streams. There will be accidents like a truckload of cyanide into a creek. There will be spills at the port. Culverts will be blocked. Mining is messy.

    The benefits are singular. Jobs. Unlike Red Dog, Pebble is not contractually obligated to hire anyone. However many workers it might actually hire, does anyone believe Anglo will invest $6 billion to $7 billion and then hire inexperienced people? Workers, especially in the higher paying jobs, will come from out of state, management from outside the country. Twenty percent of Red Dog workers still come from out of state.


    For a few temporary jobs many things are put at great risk including 50 percent of the world's sockeye salmon. Profits go to Vancouver and London. The copper goes to China. And the gold? According to Moody's, 80 percent of gold mined is used for jewelry, mostly in India and China. Trinkets. The inevitable impacts and clean-up costs? Alaska gets those.
    As Governor Hammond always asked. How is this good for Alaska and Alaskans?
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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    the power requirements of a mine like Pebble, and what that would really entail..
    Pebble would require more power than the entire Kenai peninsula currently uses. Gee, wonder why the push to put hydro on the Su?
    And suppose we screw the Su and then Pebble backs off... what price have we paid? Or worse, we screw the Su and then develop Pebble...?
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    I very much respect your opinions and I do have my own issues with Pebble but I believe that the permitting process is stringent enough. I have sat in mine permitting meetings and I have seen plans be rejected more than once. A tailings dam that I worked on here in the state had to have about 10 or more revisions and changes before the Alaska Department of Dam Safety would issue the permit to construct. The mining company accommodated all of those changes and had to pay for re-engineering numerous times before the state would even hint at a permit. Thats just one permit out of a hundred that the mining companies have to receive before commissioning a mine.

    People are making it sound as if all you have to do is apply for a permit and pay a fee and you receive it. Thats very untrue. Take Kensington Mine in SouthEast Alaska for example. They are now an active mine but people don't realize how long it took them to acquire their permits to be able to build. Their first permitting process began in 1992 and they didn't receive those permits until 1998. The EPA rejected them twice and required several different proposals on the disposal of tailings. Once Coeur Mining had the momentum and the funding they changed their mining plan and submitted for new permits in 2001 and they were finally granted in 2005 when they began their construction. They were then delayed by a court battle because of the permit that was issued by the Corps of Engineers, which wasn't the Corps or EPA's fault.

    My point is that I believe the permitting process to be to my standards. I do not agree with some mining projects, but I am generally pro development.

    Somebody also had a problem with there still being 20% of mine employees being non-residents. I'm okay with this. I don't like it but I acknowledge that Alaska is relatively young when it comes to large scale mining projects and we need some management and engineering resources from out of state, not to mention help in the underground portion of the hard rock mines. I think that if 80% are still residents then we are doing alright compared to the oil companies and commercial fishing industries.

    Here is a nice historical link on Kensington. http://www.akrdc.org/membership/even.../henderson.pdf
    There are many other mines in Alaska that have existed for a long time without any disasters so I think people need to give the mining industries a little more credit. There are bad mining companies and good mining companies. Here in Alaska we do have allot of good mining companies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 907pride View Post
    I very much respect your opinions and I do have my own issues with Pebble but I believe that the permitting process is stringent enough. I have sat in mine permitting meetings and I have seen plans be rejected more than once. A tailings dam that I worked on here in the state had to have about 10 or more revisions and changes before the Alaska Department of Dam Safety would issue the permit to construct. The mining company accommodated all of those changes and had to pay for re-engineering numerous times before the state would even hint at a permit. Thats just one permit out of a hundred that the mining companies have to receive before commissioning a mine.

    People are making it sound as if all you have to do is apply for a permit and pay a fee and you receive it. Thats very untrue. Take Kensington Mine in SouthEast Alaska for example. They are now an active mine but people don't realize how long it took them to acquire their permits to be able to build. Their first permitting process began in 1992 and they didn't receive those permits until 1998. The EPA rejected them twice and required several different proposals on the disposal of tailings. Once Coeur Mining had the momentum and the funding they changed their mining plan and submitted for new permits in 2001 and they were finally granted in 2005 when they began their construction. They were then delayed by a court battle because of the permit that was issued by the Corps of Engineers, which wasn't the Corps or EPA's fault.

    My point is that I believe the permitting process to be to my standards. I do not agree with some mining projects, but I am generally pro development.

    Somebody also had a problem with there still being 20% of mine employees being non-residents. I'm okay with this. I don't like it but I acknowledge that Alaska is relatively young when it comes to large scale mining projects and we need some management and engineering resources from out of state, not to mention help in the underground portion of the hard rock mines. I think that if 80% are still residents then we are doing alright compared to the oil companies and commercial fishing industries.

    Here is a nice historical link on Kensington. http://www.akrdc.org/membership/even.../henderson.pdf
    There are many other mines in Alaska that have existed for a long time without any disasters so I think people need to give the mining industries a little more credit. There are bad mining companies and good mining companies. Here in Alaska we do have allot of good mining companies.
    Well, that was a pretty namby-pamby statement... so how about Pebble? you think it is a good idea? or no?
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    After some years, I'm still waiting to see what they would pay in taxes to the state. My guess is about nothing as currnet mining, commercial fishing, tourism, and logging now pay.

    Anybody else seen any figures as to what sort of tax revenue stream Pebble would create? Like it or not, the state is very liberal in providing benefits to about everyone and the current oil revenues are decreasing evey day.
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    Serious question... I remember in my younger years in the Midwest, that ore mined in some more sensitive areas was shipped by large ships to an industrial area for processing. Would this work for Pebble? With a rail line and a port, it seams like the ore could be pulled out and sent somewhere else to be processed without all the chemicals we are worried about entering the streams.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post
    I've long been bringing up the power requirements of a mine like Pebble, and what that would really entail. Same thing for Donlin. The public is being sold a bill of goods for projects like Susitna Dam or other dams. They are not really intended to bring power to the railbelt or lower electrical costs. They are offsets really, state subsidized projects to benefit more large scale development projects. That one excerpt taiga posted nails it.
    Donlin is building something like a 400 mile natural gas pipeline to supply their energy needs.
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    Quote Originally Posted by homerdave View Post
    Well, that was a pretty namby-pamby statement... so how about Pebble? you think it is a good idea? or no?
    Well, everything in my post was pro mining, so yes. I am pro pebble. I have a few issues with some small items but in general I agree with the project.

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    Yes, thanks for the article Mark.

    Quote Originally Posted by homerdave View Post
    ... so how about Pebble? you think it is a good idea? or no?
    Pebble mine is a very bad idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaHippie View Post
    Thanks for the article, Mark.

    You know, 4 years or so ago I grudgingly figured Pebble was a done deal, like it or not. But the last few years have been quite different, and hopefully this ridiculously stupid idea will not happen after all. It's by no means even close to over I realize, but between information such as what you posted, local adversity to the idea, the EPA's statements against the mine, etc...

    ...Well, maybe, just maybe the writing is on the wall.

    No Pebble.

    I hope.
    I hope there will be no Pebble Mine as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by iofthetaiga View Post
    My hopes parallel Hippies...The Pebble proposal is a bad idea, no matter how you slice it. There is not enough lipstick in the world to dress up this pig.
    I am not against mining in general...I am against these kinds of mines like Pebble would be constructing. I believe there is no way they can mine this area in the way they would be, without effecting the salmon...one of the largest salmon runs in the world. A mining company has an opportunity to start up operation in various locations worldwide, salmon runs are confined to one location only.
    "Grin and Bear It"

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    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 907pride
    People are making it sound as if all you have to do is apply for a permit and pay a fee and you receive it. Thats very untrue. Take Kensington Mine in SouthEast Alaska for example. They are now an active mine but people don't realize how long it took them to acquire their permits to be able to build. Their first permitting process began in 1992 and they didn't receive those permits until 1998. The EPA rejected them twice and required several different proposals on the disposal of tailings. Once Coeur Mining had the momentum and the funding they changed their mining plan and submitted for new permits in 2001 and they were finally granted in 2005 when they began their construction. They were then delayed by a court battle because of the permit that was issued by the Corps of Engineers, which wasn't the Corps or EPA's fault.

    My point is that I believe the permitting process to be to my standards. I do not agree with some mining projects, but I am generally pro development.
    907, this above really deserves a longer rebuttal that I don't have time for right now. I'm sure you're aware of the push by Gov Murkowski and other pro-mining folks during mid 2000s as it related to Kensington mine, to allow for the first time to dump tailings into a freshwater lake (Lower Slate Lake). That was what the big fight was mainly about between EPA and state, and Frank essentially was able to reclassify the tailings as "fill material." During this time as well, Gov Murkowski moved the ADFG habitat division to DNR and cut 30% of the habitat workforce. Many longtime habitat biologists claimed that during this time when they were under DNR that the their reports were being vetted in ways that took out any opinions that may run contrary to fast-tracking projects or seeing them through. We lost some of the best habitat bios during this time when they left to work for feds. Palin reinstated habitat division with ADFG but it has never been the same, and we never got the 30% of the workforce back, let alone some highly experienced longtime habitat bios.

    Also, in 2010 Coeur Alaska, the owner of Kensington, was fined $170,000:
    "In this case, Coeur not only failed to comply with the Clean Water Act, but potentially harmed East Fork Slate Creek by allowing unpermitted discharges, including acid rock drainage, to leave the mine property and enter the creek," Edward Kowalski, director of EPA's Regional Office of Compliance and Enforcement, said in a release.
    http://www.newsminer.com/business/ar...a70cfe7a6.html

    I don't think Kensington is at all a good example in trying to allude the permitting process is adequate. Certainly it is nowhere near the scale of Pebble. But just think, if Coeur Alaska failed to comply with CWA and allowed those kind of discharges on such a small scale...what the outcome could be should Pebble also have those same kind of issues.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bushrat View Post


    Also, in 2010 Coeur Alaska, the owner of Kensington, was fined $170,000:
    "In this case, Coeur not only failed to comply with the Clean Water Act, but potentially harmed East Fork Slate Creek by allowing unpermitted discharges, including acid rock drainage, to leave the mine property and enter the creek," Edward Kowalski, director of EPA's Regional Office of Compliance and Enforcement, said in a release.
    http://www.newsminer.com/business/ar...a70cfe7a6.html

    I don't think Kensington is at all a good example in trying to allude the permitting process is adequate. Certainly it is nowhere near the scale of Pebble. But just think, if Coeur Alaska failed to comply with CWA and allowed those kind of discharges on such a small scale...what the outcome could be should Pebble also have those same kind of issues.
    Excerpt from the news-miner story posted above...

    "....Tony Ebersole, Coeur Alaska's director of corporate communications , said the alleged violations relate to discharges of sediment and acidic water during construction into the tailings facility.

    In an e-mail, Ebersole said company officials did not believe the amount of the fine was warranted, but "we believed this was the best way to bring closure to EPA's concerns.".... "


    I can imagine reading similar headlines... Only insert John Shively or similar bobble-head director of communications for Anglo..

    "...Anglo American believes the charges are false, however we paid the fine to bring closure to the issues brought forth by the EPA. PS. we're real sorry about the lower average number of Sockeye salmon harvest over the last few years... "


    I still say yes to responsible resource extraction; but a solid No to Pebble.
    When all else fails...ask your old-man.


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    Bushrat and Akarcher,

    I don't want to argue with you guys about pebble. Your opinions are your own but as for the illegal discharge at Kensington I happen to know the full story and honestly you could blame the greenies for this discharge. I'll explain why.

    When Kensington received their initial permit to build the dam they brought a contractor to site and started stripping and grubbing the initial dam area. They basically remove all soils and unsuitable rock to get a good foundation for the dam. Soon after they stripped and grubbed the area they were shut down to to a court order. A local activist group brought a lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers because they said that the permit issued was illegal. This lawsuit went on for years and during this lawsuit Coeur was issues a court order to demobilize all equipment from the dam site. The dam site sat for years and Coeur was not allowed to even start a single pump. This was a huge problem because the ground that they had exposed contained graphitic phylite. When exposed this phylite can generate small amounts of acid such as cadnium along with other metals.

    In the dam construction plan Coeur had plans to seal all of this rock with a fiber reinforced concrete so as to mitigate the issue. Also, in the dams design there is a large hole at the downstream end of the dam that is called the seepage collection system. This system was designed to catch all water that may seep from the already treated rock. This was a secondary safety catch so that no acid water or tailings contaminated water would ever make it into the creek but since the greenies stopped them, the seepage collection system was not constructed either.

    Because of the lawsuit by the greenies Coeur was not allowed to finish the project as planned and they were told by the court to leave everything exposed. Of course once Coeur reported that there was acid in the stream the mind set changed and Coeur was allowed to set up a water treatment plant that entrapped all of the water from the East dam abutment(the problem area) and then send it along its marry way downstream. The water treatment plant and operations have costed Coeur many millions of dollars. If Coeur would have been able to continue with their normal construction then this would not have happened. So when the Coeur representative says that the $170,000 fine wasn't warranted, I tend to agree with him.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 907pride View Post
    Bushrat and Akarcher,

    I don't want to argue with you guys about pebble. Your opinions are your own but as for the illegal discharge at Kensington I happen to know the full story and honestly you could blame the greenies for this discharge. I'll explain why.

    When Kensington received their initial permit to build the dam they brought a contractor to site and started stripping and grubbing the initial dam area. They basically remove all soils and unsuitable rock to get a good foundation for the dam. Soon after they stripped and grubbed the area they were shut down to to a court order. A local activist group brought a lawsuit against the Corps of Engineers because they said that the permit issued was illegal. This lawsuit went on for years and during this lawsuit Coeur was issues a court order to demobilize all equipment from the dam site. The dam site sat for years and Coeur was not allowed to even start a single pump. This was a huge problem because the ground that they had exposed contained graphitic phylite. When exposed this phylite can generate small amounts of acid such as cadnium along with other metals.

    Coeur had plans to seal all of this rock again with a fiber reinforced concrete so as to mitigate the issue. Also, in the dams design there is a large hole at the downstream end of the dam that is called the seepage collection system. This system was designed to catch all water that may seep from the already treated rock. This was a secondary safety catch so that no acid water or tailings contaminated water would ever make it into the creek.

    Because of the lawsuit by the greenies Coeur was not allowed to finish the project as planned and they were told by the court to leave everything exposed. Of course once Coeur reported that there was acid in the stream the mind set changed and Coeur was allowed to set up a water treatment plant that entrapped all of the water from the East dam abutment(the problem area) and then send it along its marry way downstream. The water treatment plant and operations have costed Coeur many millions of dollars. If Coeur would have been able to continue with their normal construction then this would not have happened. So when the Coeur representative says that the $170,000 fine wasn't warranted, I tend to agree with him.
    "Now you know the rest of the story... Good Day! " ~ Paul Harvey

    So what happens when Anglo starts the process of making this mega-mine and then must stop because the weather is too harsh (or legal issues similar to the Coeur project)leaving exposed minerals that once exposed to both oxygen and water create similar acidic run off? Blame the greenies?

    Thank you 907pride for the details on the Coeur project...
    When all else fails...ask your old-man.


    AKArcher

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    Kensington is in the National Forest, Pebble is state land. Bruce Switzer is spot on in regards to the SOA permitting process.

    The worst thing about Pebble is that once Anglo has their foot in the door surrounding areas will also be developed. Bristol Bay will become a mining district rather than wildlife/fisheries habitat. We look more like the lower 48 every year.

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    A mine pollutes and violated it's operating plan, breaks the law..............and it's the greenies fault? that is the most absurd mental gymnastics I've ever seen.

    You didn't really respond to Bushrat either. Anyone who was around then remembers Murky and how that all went down. Permitting is a joke, and Parnell is tryng to make it an ever bigger joke.

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