Friday, March 26, 2010
Alaska, here I come!
I get to take a trip to Anchorage in May to deliver a fish paper. Woo-Hoo! Never been up there, about time. I will go a day early and take a day cruise around Kenai Fjord Bay to see the birds and other wildlife. So when I saw an article in Science about a huge gold and copper deposit a bit north of Bristol Bay, I looked through it with great interest. It is the usual environment vs financial interest story, with a few twists. A number of major jewelers from Tiffany to Walmart have sworn never to buy gold from Pebble Mine, should it materialize. 40 million salmon who live in the various habitats there is big $$ to the state's fishing industry, but then, so is an estimated 33 billion kg copper, 2.9 billion kg of gold and 2.2 billion kg of molybdenum big $$ to the state's mining industry. The potential conflict involves using water from the various rivers to scrub the low grade ore. Some evidence suggests that aqueous copper, at concentrations below the legal "pollutant" level, may interfere with the way salmon navigate. Not being able to swim up river means the salmon won't spawn and make more salmon. So this will be a real Hobson's choice for Alaskans, who love their fishing and mining industries equally.