“Veto Pebble Mine” Ad Runs in The Hill
Full-page ad urges EPA to be a hero by permanently protecting Bristol Bay.
The story of Bristol Bay, Alaska needs a hero. A full-page ad running today in The Hill calls on EPA to be that hero by using its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to veto the Pebble Mine and protect Bristol Bay.
The ad urges EPA to play its part in the story by issuing permanent protections for Bristol Bay.
The story of Bristol Bay is an age-old tale of Indigenous peoples and local communities fighting to save their culture, livelihoods, and lands from a foreign mining company intent on building the world’s biggest gold and copper mine at the headwaters of the planet’s greatest wild salmon fishery.
The setting: A “national treasure” of unparalleled ecological and economic value, Bristol Bay is home to the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery, supplying 57% of the world’s wild sockeye salmon, generating $2.2 billion in annual economic activity, and supporting 15,000 American jobs. Bristol Bay’s wild salmon supports not only a sustainable commercial fishery, but also sports and subsistence fishing, hunting, recreation, and tourism. Salmon have also sustained the Yup’ik, Dena'ina, and Alutiiq way of life in Bristol Bay for more than 4,000 years, and are the lifeblood of the Tribes’ language, culture, spirituality and community. A “keystone” species in the region, wild salmon support hundreds of species in this thriving ecosystem—from indigenous wild plant life to bald eagles, bears, and whales.
In the very heart of this economic engine, cultural lifeblood, and extraordinary biodiversity sits the proposed Pebble Mine: an internationally-condemned scheme to gouge a massive open-pit copper and gold mine into the pristine tundra at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. The Pebble Mine would devastate Bristol Bay, the perfectly functioning natural ecosystem that feeds it, and the communities that depend on it. Once fully developed, the Pebble Mine would be North America’s largest open-pit mine, producing over 10 billion tons of mining waste that would require storage—forever—in a wet, porous, and seismically active region. Even just mining 10 percent of the deposit (as currently proposed) would permanently destroy hundreds of miles of streams and thousands of acres of wetlands—and would permanently degrade the pristine Bristol Bay environment.
In addition, the introduction of costly mining infrastructure into this remote region would transform Bristol Bay into a vast mining district, leading to contamination and, ultimately, transforming a pristine region into an industrial wasteland.
The characters: A diverse and bipartisan coalition of Alaska Native Tribes, commercial fishermen, sportsmen, businesses, communities, conservation organizations, faith-based groups, jewelers, restauranters, and investors united in their overwhelming opposition to the Pebble Mine.
The villain: Northern Dynasty Minerals, a junior mining company from Canada promoting a mining project so toxic that four of the largest mining companies in the world have walked away, including Mitsubishi in 2011, Anglo American in 2013, Rio Tinto in 2014, and First Quantum Minerals in 2018. Northern Dynasty Minerals is now the sole “partner” remaining in the Pebble Limited Partnership.
The plot: A tale as old as time, this is a David and Goliath story of Tribes, Indigenous communities, and a bipartisan coalition representing millions of Americans standing in opposition to extractive industry threatening a pristine environment. The battle over the Pebble Mine pits an essentially eternal supply of food against an essentially eternal supply of poison. The Pebble Limited Partnership submitted an application for a Clean Water Act permit to the Army Corps of Engineers in December 2017, and the Corps steamrolled the permitting process in favor of Pebble. In an about-face, the Army Corps denied Pebble’s permit in November 2020, finding that the project would significantly degrade the waters of Bristol Bay and was not in the public’s interest. Pebble is currently appealing that denial, vowing to fight to the bitter end. Until Bristol Bay is permanently protected, the specter of the Pebble Mine—and its 10 billion tons of toxic mining waste—continues to hang over the region like the Sword of Damocles.
The story of Bristol Bay needs a happy ending.
Using its power under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, EPA could be the hero of Bristol Bay’s story.
EPA could deliver a win-win-win for environmental justice, the economy, and the environment.