The Preposterous Pebble Mine: The Fight of Our Lives

Extensive article describes how Trump Administration, in defiance of intense Alaskan opposition, backs destructive mine proposal over Bristol Bay’s “unparalleled profusion of life”
Brown Bears at Brooks Falls
Credit: Robert Glenn Ketchum

Extensive article describes how Trump Administration, in defiance of intense Alaskan opposition, backs destructive mine proposal over Bristol Bay’s “unparalleled profusion of life”

For an insightful and well-documented summary description of what’s at stake in the battle against the reckless Pebble Mine, take a look at journalist Mark Kaufman’s lengthy article just posted on 

In “While the Bear Cam bears hibernate, the Trump admin weighs a big plan to mine their world,” Kaufman lays out (1) what’s at stake in the Bristol Bay region of southwest Alaska—from a mine proposed for construction literally in the headwaters of the greatest wild sockeye salmon fishery on Earth—and (2) how the region, its communities, and its fishery are imminently threatened by an underfunded Canadian mining company in cahoots with the Trump Administration.

It’s been called “the wrong mine in the wrong place” and “the single most important land-use decision in North America in our lifetimes,” and it’s hard to argue with either statement. There has never been a mining project in the history of Alaska so overwhelmingly and relentlessly opposed by the people who live there—tribes, village corporations, commercial, subsistence, and recreational fishermen, hunters, lodge owners, businesses, and conservationists. And that isn’t going to change.

In understated but lyrical prose, Kaufman explains how a perfectly functioning, highly productive ecosystem can be turned from a “largely undeveloped world whose profusion of life is nearly unparalleled” into a “glaring gouge with a host of threats” by a single industrial development in the region’s headwaters. Indeed, as he explains, if it happens, this won’t be the first time, since the Pacific Northwest and its coastal waters—once teeming with fish and robust salmon runs—are an undeniable example of how easily Bristol Bay’s ecosystem could be lost if we allow a preposterous development like the Pebble Mine to become a reality.

The mine’s Canadian developer Northern Dynasty Minerals (and its now depleted alter ego The Pebble Partnership) are of course quick to assure anyone who will listen that their scheme to mine copper and gold from a massive open pit gouged into the tundra in the watershed’s headwaters can co-exist with the fisheries. But were they to say otherwise—were they to concede the unreasonable risk associated with large-scale mining in a location so sensitive—they would almost certainly be denied a permit to construct.

Bristol Bay Region
Credit: Robert Glenn Ketchum

Sadly, that is the age-old story of mine permitting. 

“The definition of a mine,” said Mark Twain over a century ago, “is a hole in the ground owned by liars,” and that statement remains relevant today. While mining is an essential part of modern life, it doesn’t follow that all mining, at any location, is acceptable. According to Tiffany & Company—joined in a “No Pebble Pledge” by over 60 jewelers around the world—the question is whether “there are some places where mining should simply never occur,” and its answer is “Alaska’s Bristol Bay is one such place.”

Thanks to Mark Kaufman for a compelling explanation of why this is true.

For more information and to take action, please visit NRDC and United Tribes of Bristol Bay.


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