The Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC) Board of Directors announced their opposition to IPOP LLC’s proposed mining project in Safety Sound. IPOP LLC continues to list large-scale equipment in their mining/exploration plan. BSNC opposes having any permit issued to IPOP because it would destroy critical subsistence habitat. IPOP’s permit application proposes constructing an access channel, dredging material into four disposal areas and mining from a continuous channel for five years using a 36-inch cutterhead dredge.
The Safety Sound area is a sensitive estuarine habitat that is a critical pathway for spawning salmon, and serves as staging, resting and feeding grounds for migratory waterfowl. In addition, these areas are habitat for marine mammals and tookguyuks, beach greens, stinkweed, blackberries, cranberries, salmon and tomcod which are harvested by BSNC shareholders and descendants for subsistence purposes. Subsistence remains critical to our shareholders’ survival and cultural identity, and Alaska Native people have a unique and spiritual connection to land that provides subsistence resources.
The impact of mining in these sensitive aforementioned areas would be devastating to the people and communities that continue to rely on their lands for survival. In fact, in 1979, the State of Alaska agreed to manage the majority of land within the IPOP project area and that it, “…(would) classify such lands for public retention for purposes of protecting fish and wildlife values, providing public recreation and permitting subsistence uses in accordance with applicable law.” The preceding statement was ratified in the Stipulations to the Settlement Agreement between the State of Alaska, Solomon Native Corporation and Bering Straits Native Corporation on April 10, 1979 for the case State of Alaska v. Village of Solomon (ANCAB # VE 95-48). The Settlement agreement was incorporated into the decision of the Secretary of the Interior on August 14, 1979, approving the settlement and stipulations contained therein. BSNC will submit further comments to the USACE and the State of Alaska, Department of Natural Resources regarding the agreement of 1979 which specifically required the State to set aside these lands for subsistence and recreational purposes.
Community trust, engagement and dialogue in operating locations is critical to the short and long-term success of mining projects. IPOP LLC’s past actions and lack of interest in building community trust is very concerning. Transparency is imperative, and IPOP has not worked with local residents to communicate or address their concerns.
BSNC’s mission is to improve the quality of life of our people through economic development while protecting our land and preserving our culture and heritage. Protecting the land and the continuation of our subsistence way of life continues to be the most important consideration to BSNC’s Board of Directors and management team.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced an unexpected two-week extension of the public comment period for the proposed mining project in Safety Sound. The Corps released a statement saying public comments would be received until Sept. 15. The U.S. Army Corps has previously described this project as complex due to five endangered species, various types of salmon and migratory birds, as well as the multiple regional tribes that all intersect on the land near the mining site. You can submit comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Corps by calling (907) 753-5515 or by emailing Leslie.W.Tose@usace.army.mil.