Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Mark Hamilton, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Pebble Partnership, spoke on the Pebble Mine project at the luncheon meeting of the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
The controversial project has brought strong cases for and against approval, which is still likely years away. The project will be built on state land and pay royalties and taxes. It is located 100 air miles and 230 river miles away from Bristol Bay.
The project is a mineral exploration project to find copper, gold and other minerals. A study found that the mine contains over $300 billion worth of metals and it would have a life span of 45 years. Construction costs approach $4.7 billion.
Proponents argue that the mine will create jobs, provide tax revenue to the state, and reduce American dependence on foreign sources of raw materials. Opponents argue the mine will adversely affect the entire Bristol Bay watershed and hurt fish populations.
Hamilton said a great deal of what the public has heard about the project is untrue. “I believe in it very strongly and it is doing the right things.” The mine must treat any water impacted; the project will include a water treatment plant. They must also mitigate any loss of wetlands.
Hamilton also questioned the impacts on fish. Less than one percent of the Bristol Bay drainage area originates from the mine study area. Less than half of one percent of sockeye salmon escape from this area. “We are not going to hurt the salmon,” he added.
Seismic activity near the mine is limited and the mine is designed to stand up to any earthquake.
Hamilton said if the entire North Fork Koktuli drainage were compromised that it represents .02 percent of the total Bristol Bay sockeye escapement.
Hamilton said he thinks the mine would preserve the culture around Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark. The Pebble Mines Corp holds mineral rights for 186 square miles.
“We care very deeply about the people. It costs $20 for a gallon of milk. They are closing schools. 1,500 people live there. They hear save the Salmon. They are losing schools, can’t afford to live there, and they hear save the salmon.”
Hamilton said mining and fish do co-exist, adding that there no mine disasters in Alaska. “We don’t have to choose between Pebble mine and the fishery, we can have both.”
The project will also require 60 major federal, state and local permits. They also spent millions on environmental impact studies that are required by the Environmental Protection Agency and 24 agencies have reviewed the current proposal. The project will also create a natural gas pipeline with energy that can be sold to local areas.
The potential revenue to the Lake and Peninsula borough could reach $21 million. The state could see up to $66 million annually.
Hamilton said that some of the mine's opponents have not told the truth about the impacts of the mine. “You can get angry and fight back, but you better listen. When we saw absurd pictures of things 130 miles away from Bristol Bay, we listened. Alaska does care about its beauty.”
The mine could create up to 2,000 jobs with the average wage exceeding $100,000 per year.
As for the Salmon Ballot Initiative, Hamilton said he doesn’t see it as a major problem for the mine. He said it will hurt smaller projects more, like a church trying to put in a parking lot.
The US Army Corps of Engineers will present a draft environmental impact statement in early 2019. A final environmental impact statement could be completed in early 2020.
Also at the luncheon, Chamber President Richard Burns introduced the new Chamber Board members that were in attendance, Cathy Munoz and Wayne Jensen. Burns said it was a great pleasure and a tremendous honor to serve as President of the past year. Mike Satre becomes President on Saturday night at the annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Northrim Bank will hold an open house at the Jordan Creek branch next Thursday. They will host a Chamber business after hours event.