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Open pit mining sucks, says Robert Redford, Alaskans and logic

So, why wouldn’t residents of Bristol Bay, Alaska want this open pit gold and copper mine planned for the area? I mean, doesn’t that mean jobs and economic growth (the standard answer to all questions about new extraction efforts)? Are they a bunch of communists?

I can’t speak to their ideological leanings; I can, however, support their claims that the new mine would create some pretty major costs to the natural environment (and, likely by extension, human health). In addition to any economic benefits, open pit mines also

* Destroy surface ecosystems: Open pit mining removes everything above the minerals sought. So, say “goodbye” to forests, prairies, and other ecosystems that happen to sit above deposits of gold and copper. Say “adios” to the plants and animals in these systems. And recognize that the surface area destroyed will be huge: many open pit mines can be seen from space.

* Pollute waterways: Mine waste, whether “waste” rock or “tailings,” has to be put somewhere. Often, these materials are dumped in areas that either affect the natural flow of waters in the area, or which allow toxins used in mining processes to leech into waterways. Keep in mind that open pit mining and mountaintop removal are basically the same processes, and the same threats to waterways and water supplies exist in each case.

* Impact indigenous communities: Many of the communities around Bristol Bay are Alaska Natives whose culture is tied to the surrounding natural environment. So, impacting salmon and whale populations don’t just do environmental damage; they also hurt a way of life.

Want to join Robert Redford and local residents of Bristol Bay in saying “No thanks” to the proposed Pebble Mine? Then add your name to this petition that will go to the CEOs of British mining companies Anglo American and Rio Tinto.

Know more about the impact of open pit mining on the environment and the people living nearby? Share your knowledge with us.

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