Dear Pebble Mine: No Still Means No

Backers of the Pebble Mine—a giant gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s legendary salmon runs—continue to ignore the will of the people of Bristol Bay, whose overwhelming opposition to the mine has not wavered in over a decade.

“If the Pebble partnership had been listening, it would know we have made our message clear for nearly 17 years: Do not build a mine at the headwaters of our fishery. Period,” read an op-ed penned by the tribal, economic and political leaders of Bristol Bay.[1]

Leaders of Bristol Bay just weighed in—again—against the mine in response to Pebble’s latest tactic: convening a special “Advisory Committee” to greenwash the project.

And if actions speak louder than words, then even Pebble should get the picture: more than 100 people protested the Pebble Mine in downtown Anchorage yesterday, denouncing the closed-door Advisory Committee meeting designed to discuss how to develop the project.

Brandon Hill

“We do not want to discuss how to mitigate a disaster to our fisheries, or how to ‘better’ engineer a mine in our headwaters. Your committee's mission carries the underlying presumption that the mine will be built. We reject that presumption. We are not open to a mine, whether it's built all at once or phased in over time. We are not open to a mine that comes with local payouts. Bristol Bay is not open for mining,” wrote the leaders of Bristol Bay.

The problem with Pebble’s Advisory Committee—besides simply ignoring the people of Bristol Bay, who do not want Pebble, period—is that it has been tried before, with no success.

In 2007, the Pebble Partnership hired the Keystone Center to conduct essentially the same dialogue the Pebble Advisory Committee is now undertaking: how to develop a “realistic mining scenario” with the engagement of stakeholders.

The Keystone process flopped, and the effort was abandoned after utterly failing to engage or convince stakeholders on Pebble’s merits.

Simply put, the Keystone process failed because it could not alter the facts. As my colleague, Joel Reynolds, wrote in 2010, Keystone can’t alter the fact that the Bristol Bay watershed is the wrong place for large-scale metallic sulfide mining; that the Pebble Mine is fundamentally flawed, because it would unavoidably put at risk resources we can’t afford to lose; and that there are some ideas too dangerous to entertain.

Pebble’s shiny new Advisory Committee cannot alter these basic facts either.

At yesterday’s protest, Tom Tilden, Curyung Tribal Council Chief, asked: Can a mine in Bristol Bay be safely built? "Hell no!" he and the crowd chanted. 

Brandon Hill

For this reason, Bristol Bay leaders have repeatedly said that they “will never support a Pebble mine in Bristol Bay.”

Click here to support the people of Bristol Bay and to stop the Pebble Mine.

[1] Ralph Andersen is CEO of Bristol Bay Native Association; Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, is Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives; Robert Heyano is president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay; Brian Kraft is president of Katmai Service Providers; Myrtice Noden is executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai; Robin Samuelson is president of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Norm Van Vactor is CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Nelli Williams is Alaska director of Trout Unlimited.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.