The Trump Administration in 2017 had decided to continue the Obama Administration’s decision to block the highly controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska, but yesterday they reversed themselves and are now restarting a process that could result in the EPA lifting the Clean Water Act restrictions and letting the proposed gold, copper and molybdenum mine move forward. This action throws a lifeline to the developers of the mine, Canadian mining companies Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Pebble LP, and puts at risk the most valuable wild salmon fishery in the world located in Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Why This Matters: The Administration’s initial decision to continue to deny the mine’s water pollution permit seemed uncharacteristic for them but their reversal is tragic. The only good news is that it may be possible to delay the issuance of the permit until the 2020 election. I (Monica) have visited the region and flown over the Pebble Mine site — I have seen the dangerous and risky mine drainage plan. Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery is too important to the region, as are the two National Parks adjacent to the mine, to let it go forward.
Native Tribes Oppose The Mine.
- The United Tribes of Bristol Bay expressed surprise at the decision, saying it came less than two weeks after EPA officials met with community leaders and said they had no intention of changing course.
- Bloomberg reported that the Tribes in the region said that the project would have “devastating consequences on the watershed, the fishery and the people who depend on it for their livelihoods,” said the consortium of 15 tribal governments by email. “It is a purely political decision designed for a sole purpose: to clear the path for foreign mining interests to plow through a toxic project that no one wants.”
Why Is Bristol Bay Important?
- According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Bristol Bay watershed “provides vital habitat for 29 fish species, more than 190 bird species, and more than 40 terrestrial animals. Bald eagles, moose, brown bears, rainbow trout, freshwater seals, pacific walrus, north pacific right whales and beluga whales all live in the region.”
- The World Wildlife Fund says that the Pebble mine would be an open pit mine and the EPA estimates that it could be nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, cover an area larger than Manhattan, and could fill a major football stadium up to 3,900 times with mine waste.
- According to NRDC, Bristol Bay provides half the world’s wild sockeye salmon, supports 14,000 jobs, and generates $1.5 billion in economic activity every year.
What You Can Do: The government is taking public comment on whether the Pebble Mine should be allowed to go forward. The comment period closes on July 1. If you want to send comments opposing the mine, click here.