Over 100 people attended a community forum on the Pebble Mine hosted by Cook Inletkeeper Friday. The Pebble project was at an impasse for years but has recently moved forward under the Trump administration. In December, the Pebble Mine submitted a permit and the scoping process began on April 1.
The Islands and Ocean Visitor Center filled to capacity as residents geared up to challenge the Pebble Mine.
“I do want to acknowledge that a lot of us have done this before,” said Cook Inletkeeper's Executive Director Carly Weir. “We've showed up, we've spoken out, we've written comments, we've called our decision makers and asked them and told them how we feel. And here we are again, and it's very frustrating and very hard.”
Inletkeeper’s Advocacy Director Bob Shavelson first met with Northern Dynasty Minerals, the parent company of Pebble Limited Partnership, in 2005.
“We know that Pebble is the wrong project in the wrong place,” Shavelson said. “There's just no way that you can dig a huge hole and have a huge tailing pond in the heart of this rich salmon fishery and not have negative impacts.”
The Trump administration allowed the permitting process for Pebble to move forward and the company recently filed an application. It outlines plans to build a port on Amakdedori on the western side of Cook Inlet.
“This is going to be a giant port that will have year-round boat traffic,” said Loretta Brown, a lawyer with SalmonState. “It will have lights 24/7. It has a power plant and it has a natural gas compressor station right at it. They are planning to dredge 4.2 miles out from that location.”
Pebble says the footprint of its current design is smaller than previously planned. But Brown and residents aren’t buying it.
Some are worried Pebble’s claims of a smaller project is a ploy to get its permit approved, and the company will increase the project's size. Brown says there are discrepancies in the companies’ messages.
“Ron Thiessen, who is the CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, who is the parent company to Pebble Limited Partnership has been going around to investor companies and to mineral forums and talking about this being a multigenerational opportunity and that you can mine for hundreds of years in that it's a 10 billion ton deposit,” she said. “This mine proposal is looking at one billion ton deposit. So this is one-tenth of what they are actually marketing around to investors.”
Residents echoed distrust of the companies and brainstormed ways to make their voices heard during the scoping process. It started on April 1 and lasts for 30 days. It’s a chance for the Army Corps of Engineers to take public input on what to include in the Environmental Impact Statement. Cook Inletkeeper Penny Haas said the Corps requires substantive comments.
“If you can say more than mining is bad, if you can point to the knowledge that you have and the experience you have and impacts that you suspect: talking about cumulative impacts, direct impacts indirect impacts and everything that is reasonably foreseeable,” she said. “So there’s a lot of possibilities there.”
Cook InletKeeeper is holding a rally at the scoping meeting on April 11 at Homer High School. After the scoping period is finished, the Corps will present an Environmental Impact Statement. But it won’t stop there; there will be more opportunity for the public to give input. During the meeting, residents and speakers advocated for talking to politicians and supporting legislation to challenge the mine.