Toxic Mine Waste Could Endanger Native Tribes’ Livelihood
The rivers of Bristol Bay, the Kvichack and Nushagak Rivers and their tributaries, are not only healthy and vibrant, but they are home to the last great wild-salmon fishery in the world. Returning salmon have fed generations of indigenous families through a subsistence harvest that has been in existence for more than 10,000 years. The rivers also support a commercial salmon fishery worth $350 million and a tourism economy, with more than 15,000 non-resident anglers coming to the region each year.
However, a proposed mine in the heart of this rich and pristine ecosystem, could cause the permanent destruction of 60 miles of salmon habitat. Given Bristol Bay’s extraordinary ecological, economic and cultural resources, the mine is simply a gamble not worth the risk.
In what would be North America’s largest open-pit mineral mine, initial proposals reveal at least one open pit mine roughly two miles wide and 1,700 feet deep, and a cave mine extending 5,000 feet below the surface. At least two earthen dams [each taller than the Hoover Dam] are proposed to hold back an estimated 10 billion tons of waste and would be built on a known earthquake zone. In addition, the project could consume up to 35 billion gallons of water per year, potentially drying up 60 miles of fish habitat.
A mine of this staggering scale would cause irreversible damage to clean water, salmon, and an entire way of life for the region.
Heavy metals from the mining waste could cause health and developmental problems and irreparably harm the salmon population – and those who rely on them.
What Must Be Done
The Environmental Protection Agency must prohibit disposal of mining wastes in the Bristol Bay region,or one of the the world’s last wild treasures could be lost.