Opinion: Mine waste and salmon don’t mix

There’s a game most of us play. It’s called “What Could Go Wrong?” You know, like, “I’m going to hand my 9-year-old an automatic weapon — What Could Go Wrong?” Or, “Why not go bare-headed and drive a motorcycle really fast? What Could Go Wrong?” Then there is the always present, “Why don’t we build a giant mine at the headwaters of the largest sockeye salmon fishing run in the entire world? What Could Go Wrong?”

Many Alaskans have asked this question regarding the Pebble mine over the last decade. When the state government seemed to answer “nothing could go wrong,” tribes, fishermen and many others invited the Environmental Protection Agency to study and report.

I attended the hearing the agency held in Anchorage a few weeks ago. What could go wrong had indeed gone wrong at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia. A breach in the dam had spilled millions of cubic feet of toxic waste into a tributary of the Fraser River — a salmon-bearing river. In a stroke of irony the town closest to the impact zone is named “Likely.”

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