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TheHill: Alaska mine backers seek national profile with promise of economic boom

Exploration drill rig at the prospective site ...
Exploration drill rig at the prospective site of the Pebble Mine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Zack Colman - 08/17/12 10:10 AM ET

The group behind a controversial gold and copper mine proposal in Alaska is conducting a full-scale economic analysis of the project, hoping the promise of a job boom will grab national attention and shift the debate away from concerns about potential harm to the state’s fishing industry.

The effort by Pebble Partnership to emphasize the economic benefits — to both the state and the nation — of the proposed mine comes as Alaska’s commercial fishermen raise concerns about the long-term impact on the sockeye salmon population.

The potential for a mining vs. fishing fight now risks putting Alaska’s congressional delegation in a tough spot — facing pressure to choose between two industries important to the state’s economy.

The results of a looming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment of the mine’s watershed impact could also turn the issue into another election-year energy talking point.

“I think being able to better inform the whole conversation on the jobs potential of this outside of the state of Alaska will be important,” said Mike Heatwole, spokesman for the Pebble Partnership, the group behind the proposed mine........