FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pebble Mine: Qui Bono?

by KEEGAN BIRCHFIELD and STACY VEGA

Pebble Mine is a hot topic today both in Alaska and nationally.  Proponents and opponents have spent millions to assess impacts both economically and environmentally, but we shouldn’t we take a more holistic approach to impacts?  In a best case scenario, Pebble Mine looks to be one of the greatest revenue generating mines in Alaska and the largest mine in North America.  Who stands to gain most from this enormous undertaking?  Who carries the risk? Who will decide the outcome?

As we know, fishing communities hold the risk of job loss and resource destruction.  However, if this mine works perfectly, what implications remain?  Communities surrounding the mine have little chance of joining the small and highly skilled workforce operating the mine.  Pebble Partnership claims that 80% of Alaska’s current mining workforce comprises Alaskan residents.  This does not include any guarantees for the number of regional employees.  Native groups who rely on subsistence and fisheries resources will receive paltry income benefits.

Proposed Pebble Mine site, near Chikaminuk Lake, Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Proposed Pebble Mine site, near Chikaminuk Lake, Bristol Bay, Alaska.

The Pebble Partnership glorifies its regional capital investment as indirect incentive, but who will maintain this after the mine has closed?  These communities cannot hope to match the upkeep created by millions of dollars worth of infrastructure development.  Finally, land tenure, in and around the mine sites, is held by the State of Alaska leaving few claims for native corporations formed under the ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, 1971).  True benefits to communities around the mine are few and weak while the risk is great.  A small number of professionally trained individuals, short term infrastructure piggy backing, and a brief construction phase bout of employment are the sum benefits for these villages.  Even if none of our fears surrounding the mine come true, nearby communities will receive little real support from the creation of the mine.

The Pebble Partnership claims it has the support of communities in this area, but they remain divided on the issue.  The community support section on its website lists village councils among its supporters, but they have only shown support for continued investigation into the impacts and plausibility of the mine, not implementation. See Aleknagik Traditional Council, Kijik Corporation, King Salmon Tribe, Naknek Native Village Council, etc.  In fact, the EPA’s involvement in this discussion is largely due to petitions from six federally recognized villages submitted in May, 2010 (A Joint Letter – EPA).

Vague terms and poorly defined study areas make their promise of regulation and mitigation difficult to swallow.  The State of Alaska says that no formal meetings occur with the public during the permitting process but plans to confer with local communities.  However, these communities need a stronger voice in the decision surrounding the mine.  Alaska has never failed to permit a mine once permitting is set in motion.  This is a daunting hurdle for marginalized groups that feel the serious, social and cultural altering effects of this mine.

The families living in these communities are trying to speak over millions of dollars worth of interest group/mine propaganda.  The sea of money, large scale policy and nationwide benefit surrounding Pebble Mine is drowning out the voices of those most affected.  And this is not restricted to native communities around the mine.  Thousands of people from all backgrounds work in the Bristol Bay area.

How can 1,000  jobs to Alaskan “residents” compete with approximately 13,000 employed in the fishery today?  How can 50-80 years of mining replace nearly a millennium of subsistence lifestyle and a century of commercial fishing?  These are questions that need to be asked when we consider who decides whether Pebble Mine is put into operation and who is affected.

Keegan Birchfield and Stacy Vega are graduate students at the University of Alaska.

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and the End of the Democratic Party
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Doug Johnson Hatlem
NYC Board of Elections Suspends 2nd Official, Delays Hillary Clinton v. Bernie Sanders Results Certification
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Paul Craig Roberts
Somnolent Europe, Russia, and China
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
Cesar Chelala
A Lesson of Auschwitz
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail