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We all depend on water. Life needs water: to hydrate our bodies, our crops and our livestock, which in turn provide us with the nutrition we need to be present on this Earth. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, two-thirds of which is frozen in glaciers or not available for our use. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could face water shortages. Now imagine if your fresh water was polluted by an abandoned mine leaking 3 million gallons of heavy metals, arsenic and other chemicals into your water. It happened to the Animas River in Colorado, which flowed downstream through New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, carrying polluted water that affected wells and people’s way of life. This is just one example of the many mining disasters we cannot allow to happen on the waterways we hold sacred in Alaska.
The Inupiaq people have lived near the Kobuk River for thousands of years and depend on the Kobuk River for drinking water and fishing. When I was little, we went camping and fishing. When we came home, my aana, or my grandmother, would go seine fishing and we would work on the fish all day. When my father was alive he would take us four girls fishing during the day down the hill and in the evening we would have dinner. It was so fun and memorable. We moved to Fairbanks when I was 12, two years after my father died. Many times I dreamed of fishing on the Kobuk River, and I got jealous of people on Facebook when I saw them fishing. No matter how far I am from home, the Kobuk River will always have my heart.
If the Ambler Road is built, Trilogy Metals plans to develop this sacred watershed, which they call “the Ambler Mining District”, into “a premier North American copper producer”. The road would disrupt the migration of caribou we depend on for food, create air and noise pollution from traffic, destroy wetlands, create safety hazards for hunters and wildlife, and pollute critical waterways for humans and wildlife. Mines will pose an even greater risk. These mines, NANA and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority are not to be trusted. They may repeatedly say how safe they are, but research shows that mining is the nation’s biggest source of toxic pollution. Research at five major mines in Alaska found there had been 8,150 total spill incidents releasing 2,360,000 gallons and 1,930,000 pounds of hazardous materials since 1995. Spill predictions were severely underestimated. It is very serious for the tribes who live in this region. In 2009, sulfolane, an industrial chemical used in the oil refining process, was detected in groundwater in the North Pole after a leak from the Flint Hills Resources refinery polluted people’s wells and disrupted their access to clean and safe water. I now live at the North Pole and have a water tank, which allows me to have clean water delivered to me should something like this ever happen again. When my tatta’s or my grandfather’s water is contaminated by the mines, he and the other inhabitants of the rural village will not be able to simply have water delivered.
Alaskans are required to pay for the cleanup of spills and abandoned mines. There are half a million abandoned mines in the United States that threaten drinking water, soil and wildlife, which the EPA estimates will cost $35 billion to clean up. When I get home, I don’t want to worry about what I’m drinking or if the fish is good to eat. The Kobuk River sustains life, and if this river is contaminated, it will be a heartbreaking disaster; the risk is not worth the money. My name is Angel Stickman. I’m from Shungnak and say no to Ambler Road.
stickman angel is an Alaskan, originally from the village of Shungnak on the Kobuk River in Northwest Alaska.
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