Student Director of SIBS
Hometown: Knoxville, TNRead the full interview
Emily Chenel ’04
2005 Lewin Post-Graduate Fellow
Community and Public Awareness Project
Alaskans for Responsible Mining
Emily Chenel ’04 is a Studio Art major with a focus on photography who hails from Winthrop, Washington. While at Dartmouth she has devoted significant time to both environmental issues and to photography, traveling as far as Greenland, France, and Costa Rica to explore her passions. This coming year she will return to Alaska, where she also worked as an intern for the Cook Inlet Keeper in Homer during the summer of 2004, to complete her Lewin Fellowship working with Alaskans for Responsible Mining. Her experience will wed her commitment to both photography and the environment, as she strives to create and exhibit photographs of the potential impact of the proposed Pebble Creek mine on communities in Southwestern Alaska.
When asked to describe her project, in her own words, Emily says, "In receiving an Olga Gruss Lewin Post-Graduate Fellowship, I will commit from June 2005 through June 2006 to a project bringing public awareness to the Pebble Creek mining project in Southwest Alaska. I will do this through photographing the environmental beauty, ecological integrity and incomparable fisheries of the Bristol Bay drainage and the communities that depend upon their furthered protection and prosperity, all of which are at risk with the proposed mine development. The groups of concern are Native subsistence villages, lodge owners and commercial fishermen. My main goal in such a project is to provide a visual and textual expression of the bioregional treasures and human/cultural life ways under threat and catalyze a forum for the voices of potentially affected people, specifically the Native villages. I will juxtapose this with comparative pre- and post- photographs from mining sites throughout the United States that destroyed the environment and personal accounts of affected community members. I will produce public presentations, photographic exhibits and a comprehensive publication based on my photography and interviews with those affected. I will pursue publication in flyer form, magazines and as a book. My project will be carried out in conjunction with Alaskans for Responsible Mining, a non-profit organization in Anchorage, Alaska and Tribal coalitions working to promote responsible mining and increase public awareness surrounding the impacts of mining in the state.
“There is an urgent need for my project and now is the critical time for it to happen. The proposed mine would be the largest open pit gold mine in North America and would be located on Alaska's largest lake, which is the home to the world's greatest commercial salmon fishery. The potential for hardrock mining industry to have extreme adverse effects on the area is vast. Alaskan's for Responsible Mining predict that the development of the Pebble Creek mine and adjoining mining district ‘poses one of the greatest threats ever faced by salmon-bearing rivers and the people who depend upon them.’ The Canadian-based mining company, Northern Dynasty, will turn in their environmental and financial feasibility study this June 2005 and then have one year to apply to the Department of Natural Resources for their permit. The permitting stage will include public comment periods and the final permit can be legally challenged. Taxpayers may be held responsible for funding necessary infrastructure, leaving another area of contention. My project is very timely to this community and will culminate right at these critical times of public comment!
“My project will provide a voice to the ecological, cultural and spiritual interdependencies dependent on an intact Bristol Bay watershed, helping to balance these values with the commonly oppressive industrial and financially driven desires to extract gold from a pristine area at all costs. My project will hopefully play a role in a broader global push to reform mining and give specific attention to the degradation of indigenous lands by outside mining companies. I will know my project was a success if the concerned communities and the organizations and alliances supporting them desire to further use my completed project in expressing their voice. My project will be a success if in twenty years community members can look back and say that my work helped them counter outside pushes for unsound development.”
Last Updated: 8/7/11