Opponents of mining projects are now gathering voter signatures on petitions to try to place an anti-mining initiative on the 2008 Alaska state ballot. Promoters of this initiative want you to think it would only apply to the potential Pebble Project. In fact, it’s a deceptive and drastic proposal that could shut down all existing major metal mines in Alaska and prohibit any new ones.
The anti-mining initiative is so broad and badly written that it would affect all major metal mines both existing and future on all State, Federal, University, Borough and Native land. Its provisions would effectively prohibit the operation of any major mineral mines even if they comply with all existing State and Federal environmental regulations. For example, the fine print in the initiative would prohibit the operation of any major metal mine over 640 acres if it creates any waste rock or tailings. Obviously, it is impossible for any mine to operate without creating waste rock or tailings.
The anti-mining initiative is not required to ensure clean water and its effects are not limited just to future mines. The provisions of the initiative would prohibit any water discharge from a major metal mine even if it meets all existing water quality standards. Promoters of the initiative claim it exempts mines that have “all their permits.” But, the reality is that working mines need to get new permits and permit renewals on a regular basis. Working mines never have “all” the permits they will ever need.
Lt. Governor Sean Parnell and Richard Mylius, Director of the Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water, have formally reviewed the anti-mining initiative. They both concluded that the initiative would prohibit the potential Donlin Creek and Pebble projects and all other future major metal mines and could force the shutdown of existing mines, including Red Dog, Fort Knox, Pogo and Greens Creek.
The anti-mining initiative threatens thousands of existing and future jobs and up to $10 billion in state revenues. It would be devastating to mining employees and their families, to local businesses that provide goods and services to Alaska mines, and to many communities near mining projects especially in rural areas of Alaska where there are few job opportunities. A fiscal impact assessment issued by the Department of Natural Resources estimates the State of Alaska would lose up to $10 billion or more in revenues if the anti-mining initiative passes.
The anti-mining initiative prevents a fair and open environmental review and permitting process. Alaska’s metal mines already have to meet strict State and Federal environmental laws and regulations. There is already a rigorous State and Federal permitting process. Most of us would agree that a decision on whether to prohibit or allow a mining project should not be made until all necessary environmental studies have been completed. Each project should be judged on its own merits. But the anti-mining initiative would arbitrarily prohibit mining projects statewide and shut down mines without any environmental review process and without any scientific evaluation of whether a mine project actually would harm the environment.
You can help stop the drastic anti-mining initiative by not signing the petition and by talking with your family, friends and co-workers. Explain that the initiative is really a deceptive proposal that should not be signed or supported by Alaskans who care about fairness, jobs and the future of our state.