Trump Administration Orders An About-Face on Pebble Mine


Bristol Bay, Alaska       Photo: Alaska Trekker at English Wikipedia

On Monday in a highly unusual reversal, the Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter denying the permit application for the controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska. This comes after years of work and large expenditures by the Trump team to restart the development of the mine that President Obama rejected outright in 2014.  Most recently, a final environmental impact statement downplayed the impacts of the mine on the most valuable wild salmon fishery in the world operating in Bristol Bay. The government now has given the developer 90 days to design a plan to mitigate the impacts of mining discharges to 2,825 acres of wetlands, 132.5 acres of open waters and 129.5 miles of streams, and the transportation of mine tailings to 460 acres of wetlands, 231.7 acres of open waters and 55.5 miles of streams — a very tall order.

Why This Matters: This mine should never be built.  Ever. It puts at risk the single most valuable sustainable fishery in the world and puts two pristine national parks.  But apparently none of that mattered until big donors, and Fox News commentators and Don Jr. objected.  As they say, it’s not what you know….

The Mine Will Have Substantial Impacts After All

We reported earlier this month that the government had concluded that the mine “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”  It was to be sited near two National Parks, and the mine tailings would be piped along the headwaters of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery about 200 miles from Anchorage.  But now, the Corps of Engineers sees huge problems with the mine, saying in a statement that it would “likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.”  But the Corps also said, “This administration supports the mining industry and acknowledges the benefits the industry has provided to the economy and productivity of this country, from job creation to the extraction of valuable resources, which are especially important as we recover from this pandemic.”

Environmental Groups, Fishers, and Tribes 

Both Alaska Senators agreed that it was the right decision.  Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council told The Hill, “The problem with Pebble is that it has always been the wrong mine in the wrong place…A massive open pit at the headwaters of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery is a project whose impacts cannot be mitigated.”  Local Alaska station KTUU reported that the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), which has opposed Pebble since 2009, said in a statement  “The real winners of today’s decision are the people of our region. The future of Bristol Bay is more secure because local stakeholders have been unwavering in their efforts to disclose the true impacts this project would cause to the region’s fisheries, fishing-based economy and subsistence way of life.”  And the Commercial Fisherman for Bristol Bay and Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association said in a statement that they “celebrate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conclusion.”

Up Next

WWF Report Finds Accelerating Destruction of Great Plains Grasslands

WWF Report Finds Accelerating Destruction of Great Plains Grasslands

By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor Today, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its 2021 Plowprint Report, which tracks the amount of grasslands lost to plow-up each year. This year’s study found that plow-up across the Great Plains has only continued to accelerate, releasing exorbitant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The report concludes that […]

Continue Reading 462 words
Changing Climate, Changing Cropland 

Changing Climate, Changing Cropland 

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer With global temperatures rising and rainfall patterns changing, global agriculture is shifting too — with big changes projected. Places like Siberia and northern Canada that have been too frigid for farming in centuries past are expected to become cropland by the end of the century. But it’s not a […]

Continue Reading 392 words
Half of Denali National Park Closes Early Due to Landslides

Half of Denali National Park Closes Early Due to Landslides

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer The National Park Service has closed down a large swathe of Alaska’s Denali National Park after excessive permafrost thawing caused landslide activity near the park’s only access road. The access road is now closed, blocking entry to about half of the park. Park officials say that although there have been landslides in […]

Continue Reading 480 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.