The Keystone Center Dialogue on the Potential Development of the Pebble Mine

The primary goal of this Keystone Dialogue is to better inform decisions about the Bristol Bay mining project by integrating independent science with a public dialogue. The purpose of the Keystone Dialogue process is not to influence the decision about a mine in the Bristol Bay watershed or to replace any decision-making authority or administrative or regulatory procedure. Rather, our purpose is to assess the credibility and sufficiency of Pebble’s science through an independent scientific review,  and then to make the relevant information resulting from this process available to state and federal agencies, environmental organizations, community and tribal organizations, the media and the mining company for use in considering a mine in the Bristol Bay watershed.

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Independent Science Panels

As part of our dialogue on the proposed Pebble mine, The Keystone Center has developed a series of independent science panels to help stakeholders make sense of Pebble's environmental and socioeconomic baseline studies and determine whether the studies are credible and sufficient for their intended purpose. The baseline studies are the foundation for all of the decisions to be made by Pebble with regard to a mine. It is therefore critical that the studies are capable of passing independent scientific review. The independent scientists evaluate the baseline studies and participate in a public forum with Pebble consultants and with the attendees to discuss the studies.

Vegetation and Wetlands & Wildlife, Habitat and Threatened & Endangered Species, Independent Science Panels - University of Alaska, Anchorage (May 6 and 7, 2013)

On May 6-7, 2013 The Keystone Center held its most recent in a series of independent science panels to evaluate Pebble's environmental baseline studies, which form the basis for critical decisions regarding a proposed mine. The science panels focused on wetlands, vegetation, wildlife and threatened & endangered species.

The panels were held in the Consortium Library on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and were open to the public. They were filmed and broadcast live by KTOO for 360 North.

With the completion of the May 6-7 panel, the Keystone independent sciencific review of the environmental baseline document has concluded. Recommendations that are issued from the panels will be incorporated into a forthcoming report which will be hosted on this webpage.

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Geology and Geochemistry & Hydrology and Water Quality Independent Science Panels - University of Alaska, Anchorage (October 2-4, 2012).

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Fisheries and Marine Ecosystems & Socioeconomic, Cultural, and Subsistence Conditions Independent Science Panels - University of Alaska, Anchorage (October 9-11, 2012).

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Review the Follow-up Survey Result from the October 2012 Panels

Panel on Responsible Large-Scale Mining at the University of Alaska Anchorage (December 3, 2010)

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Background

In November 2007, The Keystone Center was approached by the UK- and U.S.-based consulting firm Sustainable Finance to determine whether Keystone was interested in and capable of undertaking an independent stakeholder assessment and dialogue feasibility study focused on the potential development of the Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. Between February and May 2008, a Keystone Center team conducted interviews and conversations with approximately 90 individuals in Anchorage, the Bristol Bay watershed, and the Kenai Peninsula. The Keystone team asked two essential questions:

  • What issues and concerns do you have with regard to a mine in the watershed?
  • Do you think a dialogue to discuss issues and concerns is desirable and feasible?

Through this process, Keystone identified key areas of environmental, social, and economic concern associated with the prospect of a large-scale mine in the watershed. The Keystone Center also identified a continuum of responses to the potential of a mine in the watershed as well as a continuum of responses to the prospect of a dialogue. Keystone summarized its findings as well as its initial recommendations for a multi-stage dialogue process in its draft report: Stakeholder Assessment and Dialogue Feasibility Study for the Proposed Pebble Project (Draft Report, September 2008). The draft report accurately reflects the Keystone Center’s findings from the assessment process however the recommendations in the report have changed with additional input from stakeholders.

Following the release of the draft assessment report, the Keystone Center conducted a series of meetings in southwest Alaska during the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 to seek further public input on the report and recommended process. As a result of these meetings, The Keystone Center fine-tuned its recommendations in order to accommodate suggestions made by individuals who were not part of the initial interviews. Revisions to the original recommendations are reflected in the process outlined below.

Dialogue Process

The purpose of the dialogue process is to help stakeholders make better informed decisions about the critical choices before them. To that end, the Keystone Center is facilitating a dialogue process that includes the following framework:

1. An independent Science Advisory Committee (SAC) to help guide the facilitated dialogue.

2. Independent Science Panels (ISPs) to help stakeholders assess the credibility and sufficiency of baseline environmental and socioeconomic studies and understand the meaning of the studies in the context of a proposed mine. Panelists will engage with each other and with stakeholders in publicly held panels focused on the following topics:

  • Responsible large-scale mining – principles, practices, criteria and standards (December 2010)
  • Geology and geochemistry / hydrology and water quality (October 2012)
  • Fish, wildlife, and habitat / Socioeconomic and cultural dimensions (October 2012)
  • Vegetation, wetlands and wildlife / Habitat and threatended & endangered species (May 2013)
  • Evaluating choices – a facilitated panel discussion designed to help stakeholders examine a mine plan and its potential influence on the region's ecological, social, and economic base. (TBD 2013)

3. Possible follow-up actions to address baseline scientific questions that may require further study.

Science Advisory Committee

A Science Advisory Committee (SAC) has been convened to guide the ISP processes. The principal role of the SAC is to help Keystone identify and select independent science panelists and to plan and oversee the panel process. The SAC is comprised of five recognized experts from the disciplines of geochemistry, fisheries, socioeconomics, subsistence, and responsible mining:

Dr. Milo Adkison, Professor, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Dr. Elizabeth Andrews, Former Director, Division of Subsistence, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Dr. Roderick G. Eggert, Professor and Director, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines
Dr. D. Kirk Nordstrom, Senior Hydrogeochemist, U.S. Geological Survey
Dr. Philip Verplanck, Research Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey

Selection of SAC members and ISPs follows National Research Council policies and procedures to assure that science panels are adequately balanced and fair and that potential conflicts of interest are avoided.

For a complete list of SAC bios, please click here.

Contact Information

For additional information on this process, please contact Todd Bryan, Ph.D., senior associate at The Keystone Center, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; (303) 468-8864; (907) 868-3476.

To receive updates on The Keystone Center Dialogue on the Proposed Pebble Mine This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Keystone Center

The Keystone Center (www.keystone.org) is a 501c3 non-profit organization that was founded in 1975 to address the inherent conflicts contained in federal environmental laws and policies that were passed in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the US. The founder of the organization, Robert Craig, saw an opportunity for a science-based organization that could provide impartial, objective, and independent expertise to help resolve the inherent tensions embedded in environmental laws, regulations and policies. The Keystone Center has since pioneered a dialogue process focused on public policy issues in the areas of the environment, energy, and public health. The organization is headquartered in Keystone, Colorado and also has an office in Washington, DC.