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Washington Post takes common sense stance on metals mining

Two days before President Obama is set to unveil his overhauled climate change agenda, the editorial board of the Washington Post has offered its take on what one of the paper’s own headlines has called: “one of the most important environmental decisions the president faces in his second term” – the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

At the heart of the issue is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) preemptive effort to derail the development of what could be one of the largest domestic deposits of key strategic minerals (Copper, Molybdenum, Gold, Silver and Rhenium) – the so-called Pebble Deposit in Southwestern Alaska.

In spite of the fact that no permit application had been filed or specific plans been submitted, the EPA released a controversial cursory review of the Bristol Bay Watershed in the spring of 2012. The cursory review was followed by a (arguably no less controversial) peer-review consultation, and the release of a revised draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment in 2013.

While sympathetic to conservationists’ concerns regarding the suspected environmental impact of the proposed Pebble Mine, the Post’s editors take a position American Resources Policy Network supporters should be familiar with:

Asking for due process – for a “fair and thorough evaluation” of involved mining companies’ claims – “is reasonable.”

Says the editorial:

“If complete federal reviews find that the companies can’t protect the fishery, regulators can reject the project. But, given the potential economic value of the mine, they should hear the companies out.”

In an appeal that should settle this argument once and for all, the Washington Post cuts through the smoke and mirrors and fear-mongering rhetoric employed by environmentalists. As the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process was established to ensure adequate environmental protections for wildlife and habitat, there is simply no adequate reason to preemptively issue a veto and prevent a full and fair review.

Seeing a leading national publication like the Washington Post – certainly not known to be a mouthpiece of the mining industry – call for fair and thorough review only days before the public comment period on the revised EPA assessment is coming to an end is encouraging, as the issue does command national attention.

Indeed, the – responsible – development of the Pebble deposit could create tens of thousands of much-needed jobs and billions in economic development. However, far more is at stake, as not allowing for due process to take its course would open the floodgates for further regulatory overreach.

A preemptive permit veto prior to the NEPA process – which is what opponents of the Pebble project are calling for – has never been issued. If the EPA continues down this road and is allowed to set this precedent, no less than our economic and national security future is at risk, as every exploratory domestic resource project may be in jeopardy of getting preemptively shut down.

While the President is yet to unveil the details of his climate change agenda tomorrow, the Administration’s goal of making the transition to a “clean” energy future is clear. Herein lies the irony often overlooked by zealous mining opponents:

Consider that the Copper content of a single wind turbine ranges anywhere between three and four and a half tons, for example. Copper is also a “gateway metal” for Selenium, which, along with Gallium and Indium is a key component for the manufacture of next-gen CIGS solar panels. An Administration that is serious about pursuing alternative energy projects to prevent climate change cannot preemptively veto mining projects that provide the metals necessary to make the clean energy transition.

Here’s to hoping the Obama Administration, which has paid lip service to the importance of critical minerals, realizes this and allows the proven process to work.


With the comment period closing at the end of this week, please consider weighing in on this important issue and submit a comment to the EPA via their website, if you haven’t done so already.

For your convenience, here are some key facts and links for further information, as well as a sample message.