Yup'ik Elder Bobby Andrew, who had spoken out for years against the development of the proposed Pebble mine, died May 12 of natural causes at his cabin at Lake Alegnagik. The 72-year-old had frequently travelled far beyond his native Bristol Bay to speak out about the impact he believed the mine would have on the fishery and the people of the region. He spoke to legislators in Washington D.C. and to Anglo American and Rio Tinto mining executives in London (companies that subsequently pulled away from the project). He testified to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in support of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, and pushed for the agency to complete Section 404(c) proceedings that would limit development at the Pebble deposit.
Locally, he had served on the Alegnagik Tribal Council, the Nushagak Mulchatna Watershed Council, and the Nushagak-Mulchatna Wood-Tikchik Land Trust, and as spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of Our Land), an association of eight Alaska Native villages in Bristol Bay. Andrew was a central character in the 2013 documentary film, "We Can't Eat Gold," in which he states, "We can't eat gold, but we can eat salmon."
Photo credit: Giovanna Marcantonio. Bobby Andrew on the set of "We Can't Eat Gold."
Image credit: EPA public document. Bobby Andrew testified to the EPA numerous times in support of protections for Bristol Bay.
Links to some of Bobby Andrew's work speaking out about Pebble mine:
Researchers from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) were some of the first on the scene after an August 4, 2014 tailings pond breach released an estimated 2.6 billion gallons of wastewater and 1.3 billion cubic yards of tailings into the watershed in the Polley Lake/Hazeltine Creek/Quesnel Lake area of British Columbia.
The scientists were already well familiar with the area, having collaborated on other projects in Quesnel Lake. They began sampling right away and continued to gather data for two months. A report on their findings, co-authored by five researchers and their collaborators, has been published in the online journal Geophysical Research Letters.
- Both the level of the lake and the temperature of the lake bottom have increased. The level increased by 7.7 cm, and the temperature increased by 1 to 2.5 degrees C.
- Observable impacts of a sediment plume may be reduced, but tailings and scour materials continue to be transported throughout Quesnel Lake.
- Ultra-fine sediment is still suspended in the lake (enough to cover a surface area of around 642 square miles).
- Each spring this lake experiences isothermic conditions during which the temperature is the same from top to bottom of the lake. These conditions allow for ready mixing of materials, potentially bringing settled tailings and scour material back into the water column.
- Waste materials currently present in the lake could affect the metal content of aquatic food webs and are a potential hazard to the "growth, survival, and behavior of important fish species."
In their report, researchers wrote that they expect spill-related metals in Quesnel Lake to accumulate in salmon and trout over time, and said further study is warranted to measure and evaluate how the contaminants move and enter food webs, as well as "long-term trends in metals of concern in resident and migratory fish species."
While immediate impacts to fish were not observed in the days following the spill, it is unclear how they could be affected over time. The UNBC report notes that juvenile salmon "likely entered the turbid bottom waters and were exposed to materials associated with the mine spill for substantial periods each day." In addition, the "progeny of the 2013 nondominant cycle line were rearing within Quesnel Lake during and following the breach event."
Federal Judge weighs postponing Pebble mine hearing (Alaska Dispatch News, May 5, 2015)
Federal Judge H. Russel Holland, who is presiding over ongoing litigation brought by the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is considering delaying further action on one of the lawsuits against the EPA, pending the outcome of an internal EPA investigation. Judge Holland learned about the internal investigation, which has been ongoing since May 2014, when he read a Pebble mine-related story in the Alaska Dispatch News over the weekend.
Pebble mine backers aren't ready to give up the gold (Alaska Dispatch News, May 3, 2015)
Erica Martinson provides an overview of the "battle over Pebble mine," addressing upcoming litigation, EPA's internal investigation into whether the Watershed Assessment process was conducted properly, and a separate, third-party investigation initiated by PLP.
EPA moves to sink Alaska Pebble mine FOIA suit (Law360 online, April 20, 2015)
The EPA has asked a federal judge to throw out one of the lawsuits PLP brought against the agency regarding a January 2014 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. PLP contends that the EPA has withheld some documents related to the 404(c) process it launched last year in order to seek protections for the Bristol Bay watershed in the area of the Pebble deposit. The EPA contends that it has properly processed the request.
Pebble selling off surplus equipment (KDLG radio, April 17, 2015)
KDLG radio in Dillingham reports on a flyer posted in town that advertises the sale of various pieces of equipment PLP had used in previous exploration work. According to a PLP spokesperson, the surplus equipment was sitting idle and depreciating and it made "sense to sell some of it off."
Judge allows for subpoena in Pebble lawsuit (Alaska Dispatch News - March 31, 2015)
Judge H. Russel Holland ruled Monday that Pebble Limited Partnership can subpoena Alaska Communications to preserve emails between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and an attorney who has represented Pebble critics.
Pebble hires Cohen group to conduct review of EPA actions in Bristol Bay (KDLG radio - March 24, 2015)
KDLG's Dave Bendinger interviews Mike Heatwole, spokesperson for Pebble Limited Partnership, and Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, about Pebble's decision to hire a consulting group to review whether EPA was fair in moving forward with the 404(c) process to protect the Bristol Bay fishery.
Pedro Bay Corporation takes official position against Pebble mine (Pedro Bay Corporation – March 23, 2015)
Citing "unquantifiable impacts" that a transportation corridor between a deep water port and the Pebble deposit could have on its lands, the Pedro Bay Corporation Board of Directors has taken a position against development of the mine. According to an official press release, Pedro Bay Corporation has analyzed the positive and negative impacts the development would likely have on its land holdings for more than a decade. The board unanimously voted that the Pebble Limited Partnership does not meet its standards for responsible development.
About Pebble Watch
Pebble Watch is an impartial, educational and fact-based initiative of the BBNC Land Department to disseminate information regarding the proposed Pebble Mine project to BBNC shareholders and interested parties.