The Alaska Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Ballot Measure 4, the Clean Water Initiative, will not stop mining in Alaska.
It is now cleared to be on the Aug. 26 ballot.
Art Hackney, an Alaskans for Clean Water political consultant and lifelong Alaskan, said the court’s ruling affirms that “in no way will the measure shut down mining.” He said the decision comes despite the $5 million the mining industry has spent so far to get the public to believe otherwise.
“Even after the Supreme Court ruling, they continue to say it will shut down mining. It’s merely regulatory, and no way will it shut down mining,” Hackney said Tuesday. “They are trying to get voters to scratch their heads and worry about something it won’t do and vote against it.”
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, the Alaska Superior Court and the Supreme Court each have now said the ballot measure regulates discharges that adversely affect fishing habitat and drinking water.
Ballot Measure 4 would prohibit new large metallic mines from discharging certain amounts of pollutants into drinking water supplies or salmon streams. The initiative’s main target is the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine near Bristol Bay. The mining prospect is highly controversial due to its location near the headwaters of several rivers that feed large salmon fisheries.
Alaskans for Clean Water conducted a poll that concluded last week to get a feel for where voters stand on the issue, Hackney said.
Some 71 percent in rural Alaska said they would vote ‘no’ on the ballot initiative, while another 22 percent said they would vote ‘yes.’ Statewide — with averages combined for urban and rural voters — 63 percent said they would vote ‘yes,’ while 20 percent said they would vote it down.
“We’re coming out ahead,” Hackney said. “But at the end of the day, we can only spend $1 for every $10 the mining industry spends on this.”
The level of advertising on the radio, television and in newspapers indicates Alaskans Against the Mining Shutdown is willing to spend a lot of money on the campaign to sway voters. Red Dog Mine officials particularly have expressed concern in a string of ads depicting members of the predominantly Alaska Native work force concerned about losing their jobs if a mining shutdown should occur.
The Supreme Court ruling should ease those fears, Hackney said, while enlightening prospective voters about water quality issues.
If the ballot measure should fail after the Aug. 26 vote, Hackney said the issue still won’t go away.
“It is still a battle over Pebble Mine,” he said. “The science applied here is just not possible without damaging the waters. Every sulfite mine on earth has contaminated the waters. For the Pebble Partnership to try to convince people this mine is somehow unique on the planet, and how they would do it without damaging the water, is just not possible.”
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