Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll promised that the company would abandon its ill-fated plan for Pebble Mine if faced with continued local opposition in southwest Alaska: “We will not go where communities are against us.”
Well Ms. Carroll, the indigenous people of Bristol Bay have spoken, and they are adamantly against Pebble Mine. The Bristol Bay Native Corporation – which represents 8,500 Native shareholders – voted in December 2009 to oppose Pebble Mine. The Alaska Inter Tribal Council – a consortium of 231 federally recognized tribes in Alaska – passed a resolution against Pebble in 2005. And a 2009 survey commissioned by Nunamta Aulukestai – a group of eight village corporations meaning “Caretakers of the Land” in Yup’ik – found that 79% of Bristol Bay residents oppose the development of Pebble Mine.
It’s clear Native Alaskans don’t want a gaping pit 2,000 feet deep and two miles wide at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s world famous salmon runs. And they certainly don’t want approximately 10 billion tons of mining waste – laden with toxic chemicals – stored in perpetuity behind 700 foot high earthen dams in an area prone to earthquakes.
Native Alaskans do, however, want to protect their subsistence lifestyle. They have relied on fishing and hunting the area for thousands of years and are not prepared to risk it all so that foreign companies can make a buck.
Nor should they. Their traditional lifestyle is a universally recognized right.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 recognizes social and cultural rights. And the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by the United Nations in 2007 recognizes the right of indigenous people to determine the development or use of their lands, territories and other resources. Their free and informed consent must be obtained prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands, territories or other resources – particularly in connection with the “development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.” The Bristol Bay Native Corporation owns the majority of the land Pebble would need to build its proposed road corridor. And although Pebble Mine itself is on state land, it would threaten the very environment upon which Alaska Natives depend.
The issue of indigenous rights is a hot topic in Alaska right now. Last week Bristol Bay Native Leaders and Trout Unlimited organized a “Seasons of Subsistence” art show (photos by Nick Hall) and panel discussion about the threats of Pebble Mine. This week Nunamta Aulukestai is organizing a series of public outreach events in cities across Alaska highlighting the cultural and scientific opposition to Pebble Mine.
The message is clear: No Pebble Mine. Anglo American, are you listening?
Sign our petition now to ensure that Anglo American hears – loud and clear – that America stands behind Native Alaskans in opposition to Pebble Mine.