It happens all around the world, every day – corporate enclosures of shared, sustainably managed renewable resources. Brutal abuses of the land, colossal disruptions of communities. And yet investors and corporate management always cast themselves as the champions of progress, civilization, jobs and the public good – and respectable opinion somehow accepts the ecological insanity of the plans as necessary. We know the rest of the story.
These thoughts were provoked by a recent commentary about a massive proposed open-pit mine near Bristol Bay, Alaska. The project is being pushed by a British-Canadian corporate alliance, the Pebble Partnership, which audaciously claims that its mining could power “green energy initiatives.” The Pebble Partnership's website helpfully notes that “the difference between being a stone age culture and a post-stone age culture is metal,” implying that the Pebble Mine is just another step forward for civilization and away from the Stone Age.
The truth is that under a best-case scenario, the mining of copper, gold and molybdenum near Bristol Bay will destroy up to 90 miles of streams and 4,800 acres of wetlands. The mining operations will supposedly confine billions of tons of mine tailings within 700-foot tall dams. But in a place where earthquakes are common and the land is wet and the wilderness pristine….well, we all know that “accidents will happen.” If the mine is built, you can be sure that a BP-style disaster will eventually ruin the biggest spawning grounds for sockeye salmon in the world.