Congress Weighs in Against Pebble Mine


Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) recently said that she would oppose development of Pebble Mine – one of the world’s largest mines – in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed should it potentially harm the world-famous salmon runs there.  In a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday, Senator Cantwell  supported EPA’s decision to conduct a thorough scientific assessment of the effect a large-scale development project like Pebble Mine would have on the Bristol Bay watershed.


Senator Cantwell is right on the money.  Developing the Pebble Mine – a two mile wide, 2,000 foot deep open pit that would generate over 10 billion tons of contaminated mining waste – at the headwaters of the world’s most productive wild salmon fishery is a colossally bad idea.  As Senator Cantwell said in her letter, Bristol Bay’s salmon population is an “economic lynchpin” for commercial fishermen in both Alaska and Washington. 

Pool 32 Bear with Salmon.jpg
In fact, salmon are the lynchpin of the entire Bristol Bay ecosystem, supporting the $450 million per year commercial and sports fishing, seafood, hunting, and tourism industries in the region.  In addition, Alaska Natives have depended on these salmon to feed their families for thousands of years.  Salmon also support a vast array of wildlife – including bears, whales, seals, eagles, moose and caribou – all drawn by the same lure:  tens of millions of thrashing salmon and the nutrient-rich environment the salmon create when they spawn and die.

Pebble Mine threatens this extraordinary resource.  It is absolutely critical that we protect the Bristol Bay watershed from Pebble Mine’s potentially devastating effects.

We must stand united with the people of Bristol Bay, who overwhelmingly oppose Pebble Mine.  Over 80% of local residents oppose Pebble Mine, and over 85% of commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay oppose Pebble. 

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), a multi-billion dollar corporation with over 9,000 Native shareholders, opposes Pebble Mine.  BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin welcomed the letter from Senator Cantwell and said in a statement that Pebble presents an “unacceptable risk to Bristol Bay salmon, which have supported our communities for thousands of years” while providing an important commercial, food and cultural resource.

BBNC and several federally recognized Bristol Bay Alaska native tribes have asked the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to stop development of the mine. Last February, EPA announced it would conduct a scientific assessment of  large scale development in the Bristol Bay watershed.  EPA’s analysis is expected to be released this fall. 

In her letter to EPA, Senator Cantwell supported EPA’s scientific assessment and also asked the agency to consider using the Clean Water Act to prohibit or restrict large-scale development in the Bristol Bay watershed if it would harm the water quality or salmon in the region.

“Thousands of my constituents have contacted me expressing their concerns regarding the potentially catastrophic and widespread long-term impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine, which would be the world’s largest man-made excavation,” Cantwell said in her letter.

Thank you Senator Cantwell for speaking up to protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine. 

We all need to get involved.  To make your voice heard, click here.


Photo Credit: Robert Glenn Ketchum and Pool 32 Mag, respectively.