Pebble Mine: The Opposition Intensifies

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin cites reckless Bristol Bay mine as project that “doesn’t make any sense,” asks “why would we do it?”

The embattled proposal to build a massive open pit copper and gold mine—the Pebble Mine—at the headwaters of the world’s greatest wild sock-eye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska has justifiably earned itself a reputation as the most widely condemned mining project anywhere today.

The opposition gained a powerful new ally this morning when Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia cited the Pebble Mine as “a perfect example” of a mining project that should not go forward. In an interview published in E&E, Senator Manchin singled out this reckless hard rock mining project with crystal clarity as one that “doesn’t make any sense to me at all”:

There's no way, shape or form that the Pebble Mine should go forward when you are basically going to have the chance at ruining one of the greatest fisheries in the world.

That doesn't make any sense to me at all. The reward is just not there. Why would we do it?

Although well known as a vocal advocate for mining, Manchin understands that the Pebble Mine is an embarrassment to the industry, a disaster for our waters, wildlife, and local communities, posing an unacceptable level of risk. In his view, “you try to look at things in a pragmatic way: What's the benefit, what's the risk and what's the balance between the environment and the economy.”

By almost all accounts—with the notable but predicable exception of the Pebble Partnership and its sole remaining partner Northern Dynasty Minerals—this mine is the antithesis of responsible, sustainable mining, and it must be stopped.

That’s why the project has been opposed for decades by 80 percent of the residents in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region where it would be built and over 85 percent of stakeholders in the Bristol Bay commercial fishing industry.

That’s why former EPA Administrators from the Presidencies of Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have singled it out as “the wrong mine in absolutely the wrong place.

That’s why four of the world’s largest mining companies have abandoned the project—Mitsubishi Corporation in 2011, Anglo American in 2013, Rio Tinto in 2014, and First Quantum Minerals in 2018.

That’s why the World Conservation Congress approved by virtually unanimous vote a resolution condemning the project and urging the U.S. government to deny a permit.

That’s why it has long been opposed by 60 jewelry companies around the world, led by Tiffany & Co., which has concluded that it poses a “dire threat to the remarkable Bristol Bay ecosystem, and the world’s most productive salmon fishery it sustains,” and, last year, that “there are certain places where mining should simply never occur. Alaska’s Bristol Bay is one such place.”

That’s why it was condemned in 2017 as a “value-destroying boondoggle” by New York-based investment firm Kerrisdale Capital, which, based on a thorough financial analysis, concluded that the “Pebble project is doomed: politically impaired and commercially futile.”

That’s why it was rejected in 2013 and 2018 by trustees for several of the largest pension funds in the country—CalPERS, CalSTRS, NYPERS, and NYCERS.

That’s why is was repudiated by a 65% majority of Alaskan voters in a 2014 statewide initiative that protects the region’s salmon from destructive projects like Pebble.

That’s why it was attacked again in January 2019 by Bristol Bay leaders, rejecting Pebble’s claim of growing support within the region.

Today Senator Manchin has succinctly and clearly expressed his own view of why the Pebble Mine “doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”

It’s a project not worth the risk, and “there’s no way, shape or form the Pebble Mine should go forward.”

About the Authors

Joel Reynolds

Western Director, Senior Attorney, Marine Mammals, Oceans Division, Nature Program

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