Thanks to American Rivers (“AR”) for its latest recognition that the survival of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers lies squarely in the cross-hairs of the Pebble Partnership and its proposal to build a mega-mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska. In its report issued today on America’s Most Endangered Rivers, AR summarizes what’s at stake for Bristol Bay and its incomparable wild salmon fishery, for the people, communities, and wildlife that depend on it, and for all of us who recognize the value of clean water and wilderness.
There is no better example anywhere of a project that poses too great a risk to resources we cannot afford to lose. No amount of environmental review, no structure of permitting, and no confident assurances from the Pebble Partnership that wild salmon and large-scale mining can "co-exist" at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers will eliminate that unavoidable risk. For that reason, over 80 percent of the region’s residents oppose the Pebble Mine, and their opposition must be respected.
As is so often the case with proposals of this kind, there is a lot of money to be made by the consortium of foreign mining companies that propose to extract Alaska’s minerals and leave its people with the toxic legacy of polluted streams and contaminated fisheries. It’s no surprise that Anglo American, Rio Tinto, and Northern Dynasty Minerals are willing to enrich themselves at the risk of impoverishing everyone else. Resource extraction on such a scale – with so much money at stake -- is, after all, a “dangerous business,” as one Anglo American executive told me last year.
But it would be very surprising if the people of Alaska allowed those foreign companies to get away with such a crazy scheme, knowing what’s at stake, understanding the certainty of disaster, and depending, as they do, on the purity of the streams that sustain the Bristol Bay fishery. The Kvichak and the Nushagak Rivers richly deserve their place on the list of America’s most endangered rivers, and they must be protected.
Support the people of Bristol Bay. Take action now to stop the Pebble Mine.