Alaskan Natives favor subsistence lifestyle; just 8 percent support Pebble Mine, new poll finds

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Sep 22, 2009

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Contacts: Bobby Andrew, Nunamta Aulukestai, (907) 842-5983
Lydia Olympic, member of local Alaska Delegation to the U.K., (907) 301-1873
Jean Craciun, president and CEO, Craciun Research, (907) 279-3982

Poll Finds Bristol Bay Residents Favor Subsistence Over Pebble Mine
Groundbreaking research finds 79 percent believe mine would damage salmon fishery; Native leaders and fishermen ask Anglo American CEO to honor promise.


Anchorage, Alaska – A new poll released today finds an overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay residents strongly prefer their subsistence lifestyle to the promise of jobs at the pr oposed Pebble Mine.

The poll, which is the most in-depth survey of local Alaska Natives’ opinion on the Pebble Mine, found that 79 percent of respondents believe the mine, located in the headwaters of two of the region’s largest salmon-spawning rivers, would damage Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery – a key resource that many residents depend on for income and food.

“What Anglo American’s CEO told us when we met in London earlier this year was that if local communities did not want Pebble mine, then Anglo American would not build it,” said Bobby Andrew, spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai, a coalition of eight village corporations that commissioned the survey. “A majority of local people know the mine will pollute and destroy subsistence, commercial and sport fishing and adamantly oppose it.

“We are asking Anglo American to honor its promise and withdraw from the Pebble project,” Andrew said.

Andrew and the three other local Alaskans who met with Anglo American executives and shareholders earlier this year in London sent a letter today to the company’s CEO, Cynthia Carroll, along with the survey results. They asked her to adhere to promises she made in a private meeting that the company would abandon the Pebble project if local communities rejected it.

The letter dated September 22, 2009, stated:  “Opposition to the mine is overwhelming and unwavering despite significant outreach efforts by Anglo American and Northern Dynasty over the years…. With that in mind, we ask you to keep your stated commitment to forego development of the Pebble mine given the ongoing community opposition.”

“We are not going to risk our subsistence way of life, which has sustained our families for generations, on the Pebble Mine,” said Lydia Olympic, an Igiugig native who joined the group that met with top company officials in London in April. “Mining is not the answer.

“Sustainable development can only be based on our wild salmon, clean water, and renewable energy – not on a mine that will pollute our land and water with toxic waste,” Olympic said.

The poll released today was conducted by Anchorage-based Craciun Research, which sampled 411 Bristol Bay residents from six parts of the Bristol Bay region between May 18, 2009 and June 2, 2009. It was statistically drawn to get an accurate assessment of opinion in each of those areas: Alaska Peninsula, Lake Iliamna/Lake Clark, Nushagak Bay, Nushagak River, Togiak, and Kwichak Bay. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percent.

Among the survey’s main findings:

· The vast majority of residents favored renewable energy development (94 percent), value-added fish packing (89 percent), and tourism that Alaska Native communities could be involved (82 percent) in over mining.

· Survey respondents agreed almost unanimously (97 percent) that maintaining subsistence-lifestyle resources and their subsistence lifestyle is important.

· Seventy-two percent of those surveyed reported that a significant part of their diet came from fish, game, berries and other subsistence sources.

· Only 8 percent of survey respondents supported the Pebble mine project, less than the one-third the number that support oil and gas drilling.

· The strongest opposition to the mine was in the Nushagak Bay area, but even in Iliamna-Lake Clark area, where local businesses benefit more from current exploration activities, 73 percent of survey respondents oppose the mine.

· A majority (78 percent) thought Pebble mine would damage commercial, guided or subsistence fishing.

· A majority of respondents agreed that most jobs created by the mine would go to outsiders, not locals.

· Few respondents thought that mining could be done without harming the environment.

To download a copy of the survey report and the letter to Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll, go to: http://nunamtasurvey.info

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2 Responses to “Alaskan Natives favor subsistence lifestyle; just 8 percent support Pebble Mine, new poll finds”

  1. booboodog Says:

    The jobs the Pebble Mine would create would be a ‘positive’ so small in comparison to the harm it would bring to the environment. In turn, harming the environment harms the locals. It only brings in more money for the wrong people, and for the wrong reasons.

  2. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    I’m just not one to say we need to lock up all the resources for preservation into eternity – we do need and use gold and copper around the world in critical areas.

    In my view, the risk of endangering Bristol Bay fisheries is not worth the benefits. We have already allowed a huge disaster to harm Prince William Sound, and we have let Cook Inlet be endangered with the complete lack of foresight of building an oil transfer terminal at the base of a volcano. BTW, when the Drift River location was being surveyed, Mt. Redoubt erupted and the surveyors were in need of rescue. Did this stop the building of the terminal? We know the answer to that one.

    So here we go again – let’s endanger one more of Alaska’s irreplaceable
    regions, which currently benefits everyone from local indigenous peoples to those around the world with its abundance of renewable resources. No, I do not agree that we should risk this jewel to mining.

    Unfortunately the huge resources extraction companies are famous for spin, bribing the locals, and actually lying about the conditions in areas of damage, such as Prince William Sound. No, I do not agree that we should risk this jewel to another huge resource extraction company with no oversight.

    I know that skilled jobs which pay well are hard to come by in rural Alaska. I know the locals / Alaska Natives have been promised many things by the Pebble Mine. However, I saw the complete corruption of the “local hire preference” first hand during the Exxon Valdez clean up efforts in Prince William Sound. The rules were bent constantly for out of staters, and locals were shut out on a regular basis for jobs they were to have hiring preference for. I lived in the 2nd largest staging port for the clean up, and this area had far more non Alaskans than Alaskans working the spill. The bottom line: VECO did not honor the Alaskan hiring preference but just did what they wanted and lied about it. No, I do not agree that we should risk this jewel to companies who can’t be forced to adhere to strict rules which have been agreed upon in advance.

    There is a lot of money to be made by the nearest municipalities of size by supplying equipment and supplies to the mine. We have already seen the customer service side of these Alaskan municipalities toward the actual people who live in the Bush. So, is this money pouring in from remote Alaska to Dillingham, Anchorage, etc going to benefit the Bush and the people who live and work there? Is it going to improve the customer service attitude toward Bush residents? Is it going to improve needed infrastructure in a meaningful way for residents?

    These companies do not self regulate and they don’t base profits on ethical practices. There are too many risks, and not enough benefits. The area in potential danger is irreplaceable. Bristol Bay is valued globally for its abundant renewable resources.

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