Giant gold, copper deposits discovered in Alaska — digging them out the trouble
About 200 miles from Anchorage, in a remote corner of a remote state, there's hundreds of billions of dollars of minerals laying underground. Getting them out, however, could endanger an important natural ecosystem.
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There's a massive deposit of copper and gold, just waiting to be dug from the ground in Alaska.
It's so large that if the Pebble Mine, 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, in a remote area of the state, is developed, it would be perhaps the largest mine on North America.
It's size, however, presents a problem for many, though, because the mine and the infrastructure needed to operate it will be located a stone's throw from a sensitive fishery in Bristol Bay. The bay is home to the largest Sockeye salmon run in the world.
But stacked against the salmon are estimates of perhaps 50 million ounces of gold and 53 billion ounces of copper. All told, the value of the minerals are projected to be between $100 billion and $500 billion, said Mike Mason, news director of KDLG in Dillingham, Alaska.
"That is going to come with a lot of jobs. It’s going to come with a lot of infrastructure, perhaps, for the area up there," he said.
But the jobs and money isn't swaying anyone. Lining up against the mining, oil and gas interests are a motley collection of commercial fishermen, sport fishermen and the richest man in Alaska.
Bob Gillam started an investment group in Alaska and had close ties to the late Sen. Ted Steves (R-Alaska). He's a major backer of the opponents of Pebble Mine.
"It really shouldn’t be mining versus fishing - it should be the Pebble Mine in this place issue. It’s not about mining at all. Most people in Alaska support mining, as do I. But not this one in this place," he said in an interview with KDLG.
Alaska is home to many, diverse Native American communities and they've also split on the question of whether this is good for the area. One thing that can be said definitively: most of the neighbors of the mine don't want it. In a vote and in polling, as many as 80 percent of neighbors are opposed to the mine, outright.
"So this is likely going to be a very contentious issue, there's lots of legal ins-and-outs, and it’s definitely going to court next month," Mason said.
The problem for neighbors is the land is owned by the state, and the state allows mining on its land. If it forbids the activities, the mine developers will likely seek permission through the courts.
But, in a bit of a twist, two major jewelry companies — those that would be expected to buy the minerals, Zales and Tiffany's among them — pledged not to buy any gold from the mine, if it is built.
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