To bring non-Alaskan readers of this blog up to speed: Northern Dynasty, a Canadian-owned company, proposes to build what could be the world's largest copper mine in the headwaters of upper Talarik Creek and the north and south forks of the Koktuli River. These headwaters are the spawning area of a significant portion of the Bristol Bay salmon run. In addition, the area is geologically active and can be prone to earthquakes. The Renewable Resources Coalition is a typical Heinz 57-type environmental hodgepodge which has assembled itself in opposition to this single issue. They believe the proposed Pebble Mine not only could reduce salmon spawning, possibly below adequate replacement levels at best, but the geological activity of the local area could cause a catastrophic breach of any holding dams constructed by Northern Dynasty to contain the tailing ponds. Such a breach could significantly pollute the local countryside for years to come. The recent 6.8 earthquake in Japan, which caused an "earthquake-resistant" nuclear plant to catch fire and leak radioactive water into the nearby sea, may actually serve to strengthen the Coalition's case. So their concerns, while promoted somewhat melodramatically, are NOT unfounded.
Click HERE to view map showing the proposed location of the Pebble Mine.
Now back to the story. The Renewable Resources Coalition (RRC) has been spamming the local airwaves with an endless series of commercials advocating scuttling the proposed Pebble Mine project. Holly Wysocki, who is a longtime subsistence fisherman (or fisherwoman, if you want to get technical), was chosen as their official spokesdiva after she failed to get re-hired by Northern Dynasty in February of this year.
She worked as a drilling assistant for Northern Dynasty for a five month period ending in December 2006. She claims that during that time, she not only was opposed to the Pebble Mine, but when Northern Dynasty asked her to appear in one of their commercials, she demurred, citing her opposition to the project to company officials. In December, she was temporarily laid off, as winter weather conditions in Southwest Alaska preclude continuation of that type of work. In February, she was invited to return to work, but after missing a connecting flight to Dillingham, the company told her she was no longer needed. Presto! Shortly thereafter, she suddenly "appears" in the RRC's T.V. spot. Hmmm...what is it they say about "hell hath no fury like..."?
However, when asked why she took the job with Northern Dynasty, Wysocki told Channel 2 News that she just needed money and the mine offered the only good paying job after fishing season. "At the time, I was living in that area - Iliamna, Newhalen area -- you know in the winter months you don't really have anything to do, so you either work or go to school, so I chose to work," said Wysocki.
And the latter certainly is true. According to a July 12th press release by NOAA Fisheries, the value of commercial fishing operations in the nearby Naknek-King Salmon area was $51.4 million, the eighth-highest total in the United States. Other locations in the top 10 have significantly higher populations. This shows how dependent the area is on fishing - no fish, no economy. The need for additional enterprise in the area to diversify the economy is critical.
The value of the expected resources from the Pebble Mine could reach $300 billion, and construction would provide an estimated 2,000 jobs. However, opinion is sharply divided, and signs protesting the mine have sprouted in nearby Dillingham. Most opposition is not to the activity or industry itself, but to the location. It is simply considered too environmentally sensitive.
However, one proponent of the mine said he can make $15,000 in a mere ten weeks working as a drilling assistant. In an area off the state's road network, where prices are 150-200% higher than Anchorage due to increased air shipping costs, this could help Bush Alaska pay its own way a bit more. Even Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who has prior experience as a Bristol Bay setnetter, is cautiously supportive, although she would prefer a different location.
Northern Dynasty said it will be drilling the Pebble East deposit through May 2008. Once that is done, it will do economic feasibility studies to determine the best way to develop the mine. Afterwards, it will begin the permit process. Northern Dynasty said it's best guess for that is 2009. The company said it needs 67 state and federal permits before it can even begin construction.
But there's just something hypocritical about someone who takes a job with a company of which she doesn't approve, then when the company refuses to re-hire her, starts doing T.V. spots for an enviromentalist lobby opposing the company (although the RRC is not paying her for her appearance in the ad). It's almost like a woman who gets raped, and then, instead of filing charges, marries the rapist. This seems like a classical example of the hypocrisy which infests the environmentalist movement. And I discovered a post on the Stormeyes.org blog which describes this problem in greater depth (focusing primarily on Al "Earth in the Balance" Gore):
As for the publicity seeking, holier than thou, self-righteous, limousine-liberal, egomaniacal Eco-Puritans, among them Albert Gore: Let them walk the walk (quite literally) after talking the talk.
No cars. No planes. No buses. No trains. No electric power.
No modern conveniences! [That, by the way, includes microphones -- the very objects that most powerfully attract these people, as flies flock to a turd pile.]
Walk or ride a bike everywhere...wait, bicycle grease is made from petroleum, and the steel was cooked with petroleum derived energy! Ixnay on the cyclebay. Use your feet or a horse. Hey, if Gene Glasscock (whom I've had the privilege to meet) can ride across 48 states for four years in his late 60s and 70s, so can a younger man like Mr. Gore. Saddle up, Al.
Who is using a computer, TV, telephone, microwave oven, refrigerator, washing machine, electric alarm clock, or anything else that plugs into a wall socket that's attached to a corporate electric grid? Stop that! Electricity still is mainly coal- and oil-generated, wind power can hurt migratory birds, big hydro thwarts some salmon, and nuclear power generates nuclear waste. Generate your own power off-grid to full reliance or quit-cher-bitchin'! I know an atmospheric scientist who has done exactly that, and I admire his resourcefulness and dedication immensely.
Who has battery powered cars, electronics or lights? Halt, in the name of Mother Earth! Don't you know what energizes the Energizers? Power from...you guessed it: coal, nuclear, wind and of course oil.
Who among the eco-whiners has a house made of wood that wasn't hand cut by the owner or someone he/she knows? Ah ha...waltzing with Weyerhauser, eh? Tsk, tsk... Oh, look up there -- asphalt shingles too. Horrors! I wonder how many "tree huggers" live in houses constructed of machine-cut lumber which contain plastic or synthetic rubber of some sort. Or how many live in apartments built with oil powered machinery. To them I say: Step to the rear of the complaint line and shut the hell up.
Maybe Ol' Al can live in a tent instead. Whoops, make that a buffalo skin tepee...most tents are made from or with...petroleum! No nylon or polyester is allowed in the clothes, either, nor is electrically powered production. Hand-sheared wool and hand-ginned cotton only!
Organic farming is a good thing, but where did that steel come from and what powers the machinery? Get a mule and plow instead of that tractor or roto-tiller. Mow the lawn with no gasoline or electricity. Better yet, don't mow. Be wild and free. Celebrate the company of our fellow living beings, the ticks and chiggers and West Nile infected mosquitoes.
I wonder: Does Al Gore have the folks at his speaking venues turn off the air conditioning or heating before he arrives by saddleback?
Some of my fellow storm observers can plead guilty too. Personally, I won't give up driving thousands of miles across the Great Plains each year in search of stormy skies. If that leaves a "carbon footprint," so be it. At least I admit that. But those who do chase storms while advocating huge reductions in "greenhouse gases" do perplex me a little. Every hour spent chasing storms (wondrous pursuit, but a resource-consuming hobby if there ever was one) yields CO2, no matter the vehicle driven. I know a few storm chasers who vociferously advocate the Kyoto Protocol, or who gripe about CO2 emissions, and I hereby call their bluff.
Walk the talk, folks. Either shut off the flow of CO2 and stop storm chasing, or shut off the flow of environmental rhetoric. Which way are you going to have it?
And the fact is that environmental restrictions promoted by the green lobbies victimize the working class and the poor first and foremost.
Northern Dynasty deserves the opportunity to complete their research and studies before rushing to judgement. With 67 different permitting "stops", if this project really proves problematic, it will be stopped at some point long before any irrevocable action is taken.