September 23, 2009

One mining firm fined as another ups its Pebble bet by $10 million

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We didn’t have to point out the juxtaposition of one Alaskan mining firm being fined for environmental violations — notwithstanding the industry’s claim that modern mining methods obviate environmental harm — as another upped its bet to open a massive new mine in The Last Frontier state.

No, the editorial writers at the Anchorage Daily News caught that one for us.

Firm No. 1 is Teck Alaska, which was just fined for wastewater violations at its Red Dog Mine near Kotzebue. It’s a subsidiary of Teck Cominco, a firm based just across the Canadian border and upstream from Washington’s Lake Roosevelt, which the firm also has polluted. This despite the mining industry’s characterization of regulations as a “belt-and-suspenders” system to protect the environment.

Firm No. 2 is Northern Dynasty Mines Inc., which is boosting its budget for the Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska by $10 million, to $70 million. Opponents point out that the proposed mine is upstream from Bristol Bay, where they fear mining pollution will severely curtail the salmon harvest.

Here’s what the Daily News’ opinion writers had to say about the situation.

We’re told Alaska has strong mining laws that will ensure Pebble is benign. Experience with Red Dog suggests those laws have failed to prevent significant trouble….

No mine — or any other industrial operation — is going to run flawlessly, even with the best training and intentions and vigilant enforcement.

While we’re rounding up pollution news in the 49th state, we also should note that BP just got fined $1.7 million for inadequate oil spill protection at Prudhoe Bay.

— Robert McClure

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