Godzilla Stalks the Tundra

By John Copp of Portland, Oregon. John is a Portland-based commercial fisherman who has fished Bristol Bay in Alaska for the past thirty years.

A monster stalks the tundra in remote Southwestern Alaska. Voracious and poisonous to every living thing it touches, it is so huge that future astronauts will be able to see it from the moon.

I'm talking about Pebble Mine, a gigantic hole in the Earth that foreign companies want to create at the headwaters to Bristol Bay, the greatest sockeye salmon run left on this planet.

Bristol Bay is a world-class refuge. Refuge for Brown Bear, moose, caribou, walruses, and seals. Refuge for sixteen species of whales. And as the World Wildlife Fund says "nowhere else on Earth is so important to so many birds from so many different continents."

As such, it is critical to the over 500 Oregon commercial fishermen, pilots, operators, and sportfishing guides travel to Bristol Bay each summer for work. Our local grocers sell wild Bristol Bay sockeye, and chefs demand it for its quality. Oregon boat builders like Clackcraft, Koffler, and Willies rely on Alaska’s fishery to sell their Oregon designed boats. We rely on this rich ecosystem to support our way of life, and in turn, we recognize we’re all in this together.

Open-pit mines like the proposed Pebble Mine pose countless risks. Perhaps the biggest are the tailing dams. A hard rock mine like Pebble generates more waste in a single year then do many industries as a whole. The bulk of it is in the form of tailings, material too toxic and dangerous to be released into the world. The tailings from Pebble Mine will cover 10 square miles and must be stored forever behind earthen dams.

Tailings dams have been failing since 1919, producing loss of life, massive property damage, and irreversible pollution of earth and water. Worldwide, 2 tailings dams fail each year. The largest so far was 80 million metric tonnes spilled from a copper mine in the Philippines.

If Pebble's tailings dams break, there will be no place to hide. Millions of tons of toxin-filled water will rush into Bristol Bay then to the wider Bering Sea beyond.

The mining companies claim that Pebble Mine can coexist with the Bristol Bay wilderness. That myth ignores the vast infrastructure required to support the biggest open-pit mine ever built in North American. That discounts the hundreds of miles of mining roads, the fleet of huge trucks and bulldozers, the thousands of tons of explosives that will be detonated, the billions of tons of churned up tundra, the huge electrical plant that will be built, the vast ore processing facilities, the massive tunnels required to move the metal concentrates to ships waiting in the yet-to-be-built giant port. It ignores billions of gallons of toxic waste. It ignores the acid drainage that flows from every single open-pit mine ever built.

There is no middle ground in this war. There is no compromise. There is no rationale choice but to save Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine. There is no higher wisdom than to grant permanent refuge to Bristol Bay, its pristine waters, its wild salmon, whales, seabirds, caribou, Brown bears, wolves, and all the rest of its unique and diverse faunal assemblage. And yes, to the thousands of commercial fishermen like me who risk life and limb to bring the world crab, herring, and salmon.

In the end Godzilla is no match for the human heroes who through ingenuity and audacity are able to defeat this seemingly impossible beast. Across this country, countless people like myself are standing up to say no to Pebble Mine and the havoc it will wreak. Now is that critical moment where it is up to you and people like you to stand up with us. Don’t give up this fight, together we can beat Godzilla.

  • (Show?)

    This is a huge deal for everyone in the Pacific Northwest as well the future of salmon

  • (Show?)

    It would also be great for every Oregonian to contact your Senator Ron Wyden who was just in Alaska on a tour with Alaska Senator Begich, and urge him to contact EPA/President Obama about Pebble. He still has not sent a letter to decision makers and it's important that he stands up for Oregonian and Alaskan jobs!

  • (Show?)

    Even more effective, people should contact their local/regional elected representatives. The locally-elected citizens' representatives who meet to set state policy every winter and network with their counterparts in neighboring states.

    PNWR - Pacific Northwest Economic Region. http://www.pnwer.org

    Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Sen. Rod Monroe Sen. David Nelson Sen. Doug Whitsett (Alt) Rep. John Huffman Rep. Mike Schaufler Rep. Patrick Sheehan (Alt)

    Washington Gov. Chis Gregoire Sen. Maralyn Chase (Alt) Sen. Jim Honeyford Sen. Cheryl Pflug (Alt) Sen. Kevin Ranker Rep. Glenn Anderson Rep. Bruce Chandler (Alt) Rep. Deb Eddy Rep. Bob Hasegawa (Alt) Rep. John McCoy (Alt)

    Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell Sen. Fred Dyson Sen. Charlie Huggins (Alt) Sen. Lesil McGuire Sen. Tom Wagoner (Alt) Rep. Bryce Edgmon Rep. Bob Herron Rep. Peggy Wilson Rep. Reggie Joule (Alt)

    Pacific Northwest Innovation Summit in Seattle, Washington Sept. 17-18, 2012

    2012 Economic Leadership Forum November 14-17, 2012 Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

  • (Show?)

    Great column! please remember that many of the Bristol Bay gillnetters that are working hard to stop Pebble Mine are also fighting for their livlihoods here at home. They need everyone to oppose Oregon Measure 81. Let's not reward their efforts by driving them out of Oregon. Vote NO on 81!

guest column

connect with blueoregon