The President's quip about salmon in last night's State of the Union has hooked the nation. Trying to draw attention to the layers of federal regulation, President Obama said "the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they’re in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”
Hooked, Americans responded: my colleague at NRDC blogged, Earthjustice issued a press release, and NPR listeners summed up the State of the Union in a word: salmon.
While the nation focuses on salmon, I feel compelled to write about a horrific threat to their survival -- Pebble Mine. Pebble is a massive gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. Based on current ore projections, Pebble Mine is expected to be the largest mine in North America. Proposals call for an open pit 2.5 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, an underground mine 5,000 feet deep and over 10 BILLION tons of mining waste laced with toxic chemicals.
As former Alaska Governor Jay Hammond said to the Washington Post, "I cannot imagine a worse place for a mine of this type, unless it was in my kitchen." That's because Bristol Bay is home to the world's largest remaining wild salmon fishery. The 10 billion tons of toxic waste Pebble Mine will generate -- spread over 10 square miles and held behind colossal earthen dams -- would have to be stored forever above America's last salmon stronghold.
Wild salmon has been the lifeblood of the area for thousands of years, and still is today. Pebble Mine would threaten the $450 million per year fishery economy, as well as the fishermen, Alaska Natives and wildlife that depend on salmon.
If Americans care about salmon, we should also care about Pebble Mine. It's simply the wrong mine, in the wrong place. Click here to say no to Pebble Mine.