Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press
An aerial view of the disaster that has been dubbed "another Exxon Valdez" by at least one First Nations chief.

Company That Designed Burst BC Tailings Pond Was Hired by Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay


The Polley Mine tailings-pond disaster unfolding in British Columbia is being watched closely by those opposing the Pebble Mine proposal in neighboring Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.

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In fact the firm that designed the tailings pond dam that burst on August 4, sending four billion gallons of mining waste tumbling into waterways awaiting the return of the salmon, also worked on plans for Pebble Mine.

RELATED: Video: Watch 4 Billion Gallons of Mining Waste Pour Into Pristine B.C. Waterways

“Knight Piesold Consulting, the same international firm that designed the tailings dam for Mount Polley, was engaged by Northern Dynasty Mines to design the tailing storage facility for the Pebble project,” reported The Cordova Times on August 6, quoting a 2006 report filed with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources by Northern Dynasty Mines Inc.

The Polley mine disaster is exactly the type of thing the opponents are afraid of, Native Alaska groups and others told The Cordova Times.

RELATED: With Billions at Stake in Bristol Bay, Mining Company Spends Big

"We don't want this to happen in Bristol Bay," said Kim Williams, of Dillingham, director of Nunamta Alukestai, which means Caretakers of Our Land, a conservation group of Alaska Native tribes and corporations, to The Cordova Times. "With all the similarities between Pebble and the Mount Polley copper mine, we're urging the EPA to take immediate action to finalize mine waste restrictions in Bristol Bay. Our hearts go out to those in British Columbia who live downstream from this devastating mine failure."

RELATED: Allowing Mining in Bristol Bay Puts Wildlife at Risk

Carol Ann Woody, a fisheries scientist at the Center for Science in Public Participation, spoke to the newspaper about damage to prime salmon runs, including, potentially, the Fraser River.

"It's Bristol Bay's worst nightmare," Woody told The Cordova Times. "It's exactly what we don't want to have happen. It's about Canada's premium salmon system, and it's occurring now when the run is just beginning.”

As noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pebble dwarfs Polley.

“The Pebble project would be bigger—a lot bigger,” wrote Joel Reynolds, western director and senior attorney for the NRDC in Los Angeles, on Huffington Post. “While Imperial Metals has been mining about 20,000 tons per day at its Mount Polley mine, Northern Dynasty has anticipated about ten times that at Pebble, with a tailings pond many times larger in footprint and scale.”


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