Still time to stop controversial 8,100 acre coal mine near Alaskan community

by September 23, 2011
 

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) is now accepting public comments on the Wishbone Hill coal strip mine–a controversial 8,100-acre coal mine project that could drastically impact the health of thousands of families in southern Alaska.

More than 80,000 people live downwind from the proposed mine site, which means they could be routinely exposed to toxic coal dust. One particular community lives less than one mile away from the site.

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What’s more, the proposed mine would degrade the air and water quality on lands traditionally used by the Chickaloon People for hunting, fishing and ceremonial purposes.

Among these and a dozen other concerns (see below) Friends of Mat-Su says the permit application for the Wishbone Hill mine is incomplete and vastly outdated (pdf). The permit should therefore be rejected outright.

To help stop this controversial mine, please voice your concerns to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and Sign this petition against the project.

Note: Terri Hansen, writing for the Indian Country Today Media Network, reports on growing divisions and racism surrounding the proposed coal mine.

For updates and more information, please visit: www.foms.net, www.matvalley.org, www.alaskacoal.org.

Location of the proposed Wishbone Hill coal mine – Credit www.alaskacoal.org

Suggested talking points:

1. The plan to divert Buffalo Creek may adversely affect downstream aquatic habitat and remove key nutrients from the ecosystem; the permit materials do not analyze this.

2. The mining permit materials include inaccurate and out-of date information on fish, wildlife, and plant species. The information misrepresents species’ presence, habitat, locations, and historical information, as well as the importance and use of those species by local residents and Tribal citizens.

3. The water quality data is incomplete, out-of-date, and doesn’t account for the significant restoration work that has occurred on Moose Creek. Without updated and complete information, we don’t know what the baseline is and can’t be sure that mining won’t degrade the water. Additionally, the process for testing for toxic materials has changed considerably since the data was evaluated; those tests need to be re-run using current methodologies to ensure that the water is kept safe for people, wildlife, and fish.

4. The DNR should not make a decision on the permit renewal application until the Health Impact Assessment has been completed to ensure that the agency’s decision is fully informed and that recommendations from the HIA are integrated into the permit.

5. The community has grown and the surrounding land uses have changed from when the mining permit was initially issued such that mining is no longer the best use of the land or in the public interest. Blasting, increased traffic, and other associated industrial activities are inappropriate given the nearby residences, schools, and community centers.

Community Values and Core Concerns

via Castle Mountain Coalition

Economic Issues:
1. We support a diversified economy made up of sustainable and clean jobs such as farming, fishing, tourism, recreation, and local businesses that enhance the quality of life for all who live here and make this such a desirable place to live.

2. We encourage the Borough to invest in and develop long term, sustainable jobs that preserve our neighborhoods and enhance our quality of life rather than jobs that present a risk to public health and the environment.

3. A coal strip mine will make our property values plummet.

4. The Matanuska Valley Moose Range is an extremely popular recreation destination and becoming more popular every year. Alaskans enjoy the Moose Range for recreational pursuits such as fishing, snowmachining, hiking, hunting, skiing, kayaking, and mountain biking.

5. This coal mine will hurt tourism. When visitors come from out of state, they want to see the large cabbages we grow and our wildlife. They want to go fishing, and on wilderness hikes. No one comes to Alaska to see an open pit mine complete with coal trucks on the Glenn Highway, a designated National Scenic Byway.

Export Issues:
1. This Wishbone Hill coal is currently destined for export and will benefit Japan not the people who live here in Alaska. We have the most to lose if this mine is developed close to our neighborhoods and schools, and the energy of the coal is going to foreign countries.

2. When coal is burned overseas, we see the results in the form of ocean acidification and mercury pollution which has major impacts on our wild fisheries.

Health/Safety Issues:
1. Putting a coal strip mine in a beautiful residential neighborhood will degrade the quality of life, health and safety of our families.

2. 108 families live less than one mile from the mine site. These homes and families will be subjected to blowing coal dust, which will compromise our health; blasting and heavy truck traffic on the public roads will decrease the safety of our neighborhoods.

3. A neighborhood is no place for an open pit coal mine which threatens to pollute our water, dirty our air, and create a danger on our highways.

Truck Issues:
1. Coal mining will disrupt our peaceful and vibrant community with blasting, air, noise and water pollution, and hundreds of coal trucks hauling dirty coal through our quiet neighborhoods and roads.

2. We want our children to be safe at school and going to school; coal trucks will pose a risk to the air quality of our school and neighborhoods.

3. The mine could lead to future mining in the Matanuska Valley. The quality of life for communities throughout the Moose Range as well as the City of Palmer will be severely impacted by the heavy coal traffic.

Community Issues:
1. We value our close-knit neighborhoods and want to preserve our beautiful communities.

2. The coal strip mine development threatens our communities and Moose Creek.

3. These are neighborhoods worth preserving for the hundreds of families who already make it their home.

4. Our families came to the Matanuska Valley for the same reasons as all of you who came before us: for its pristine wilderness, magnificent scenery, to hunt and fish, grow crops, and because it was a good place to raise our families free from industrial pollution and the impacts of open pit mining.

5. We want to continue to raise our families in a safe, beautiful place.

6. We value the peace and quiet and beauty that surrounds us as others have before us.

7. Coal mining is a dirty and destructive business that will threaten the salmon streams of Eska Creek, Moose Creek, Wasilla Creek and the Matanuska River where we fish.

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