Conservation Groups Call on Keystone Center to End Review of Pebble Mine Project

WASHINGTON (October 3, 2012) – National and Alaska conservation organizations today called on the Keystone Center to end its work on the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska, which faces intense opposition from local residents, Alaska natives and commercial fishermen because the mine could ruin pristine land, fisheries and the livelihood of thousands of Alaskans.

The Alaska Wilderness League, Audubon, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, Earthjustice, and World Wildlife Fund sent a letter to Keystone CEO Gary A. Grappo saying that Keystone’s work with the Pebble Partnership isn’t necessary or productive and “has the potential for misuse by the mine proponents that are funding it.”

The Colorado-based Keystone Center has been hired by the Pebble Partnership, a consortium seeking to develop the Pebble Mine, to set up a “dialogue” process to evaluate the mine project separate from one undertaken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Nine federally recognized tribes, the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, the Bristol Bay Native Association, commercial fishing and sportsmen groups, and conservation groups have asked the EPA to protect Bristol Bay and veto Pebble Mine. Those groups also oppose the Keystone dialogue.

In support of the local opposition, the conservation groups wrote to Grappo: “We believe the dialogue is the wrong approach given the project’s unacceptable location and unavoidable risks. We value good science, as you do, to inform a dispute, resolve uncertainties, and, where possible, eliminate risks through project design changes, operational conditions, or other mitigation.  In this instance, however, no amount of scientific analysis or mitigation can alter the fundamental problem that this is an inherently dangerous project in the wrong place.

“And we note the significant local opposition both to large-scale mining in the region and to Keystone’s engagement in a dispute over a project that threatens to devastate this unique and irreplaceable watershed, contaminate their communities, and destroy their livelihood,” the groups wrote. “We appreciate the gravity and the potential difficulty of the request we are making, but we nonetheless urge Keystone to withdraw its engagement from the Pebble Project.”

Pebble Mine is a giant gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.  The Bristol Bay watershed feeds the greatest wild salmon fishery in the world, supporting valuable (around $500 million annually) fish- and tourism-related activity, indigenous people, and a vast array of wildlife.   

In their letter, the environmental groups commended the EPA for developing an ecological risk assessment of possible large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed. In May 2012, the EPA issued draft findings and concluded that “mining of this scale would case the loss of spawning and rearing habitat for multiple species of anadromous and resident fish.”

In its evaluation, the EPA provided substantial opportunity for experts and citizens to offer their views. Multiple public hearings in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest solicited testimony and comments from state and local governments, Native corporations, the mining industry, commercial fishermen, recreation and tourism businesses and residents. By overwhelming numbers public comments supported the EPA’s process.

To see the letter to the Keystone Center, click here: