Dear Pebble Partnership, It's Time to Walk Away From Bristol Bay

Just how many reasons does the Pebble Partnership need to stop its disastrous plans to build the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska? NRDC explored that question in a series of ads in Politico. The ads give the Pebble Partnership several compelling reasons to quit the Pebble Mine, culminating today with a simple request: walk away from Bristol Bay.

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Bristol Bay is home to the world's greatest wild salmon fishery, supplying half of the world's sockeye salmon. Salmon support a $1.5 billion annual commercial fishery that employs 14,000 full and part-time workers. Salmon are not only the economic backbone of the region, but also the lifeblood of Bristol Bay's native communities that have relied on subsistence fishing for millennia.

Yet the Pebble Partnership wants to build a giant gold and copper mine at the headwaters of these important salmon runs. The Pebble Mine would produce up to 10 billion tons of mining waste and would destroy 94 miles of streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes - key habitat for salmon. The mine's open pit would be almost as deep as the Grand Canyon, and the mine's total footprint would cover an area larger than Manhattan - all located in a seismically active area. As if the environmental footprint alone isn't reason enough to stop the Pebble Mine, here are a few other reasons highlighted in the ads.

  1. Overwhelming local opposition to the mine. Polls show that 85 percent of commercial fishermen in Bristol Bay, 81 percent of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation's native shareholders, and 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose the Pebble Mine.
  2. Strong state-wide opposition to the mine. Polls showed that 62 percent of Alaskans oppose the Pebble Mine. Those polls proved accurate when, in November 2014, Alaska voters passed - with 65 percent of the vote (or more) in every precinct across the state - an initiative called "Bristol Bay Forever". The initiative protects the Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale sulfide mining (like the proposed Pebble Mine) that would harm wild salmon. It requires an affirmative finding from the Alaska legislature that mining would not be harmful to wild salmon within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.
  3. EPA issued restrictions to protect Bristol Bay from the Pebble Mine's potentially "catastrophic" effects. EPA conducted an extensive scientific assessment of the Bristol Bay watershed to determine the potential impacts of large-scale mining. The study concluded that "mining of the scale contemplated at the Pebble deposit would result in significant and unacceptable adverse effects to important fishery areas in the [Bristol Bay] watershed." EPA found that the Pebble Mine would have "significant" impacts on fish populations and streams surrounding the mine site, and that a tailings dam failure would have "catastrophic" effects on the region. Based on this information, EPA issued a proposed determination under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed for disposal of dredged or fill material associated with developing the Pebble Mine.
  4. Pebble Mine is a bad investment. All the major investors in Pebble Mine have fled the project. Mitsubishi left in 2011. Anglo American left in 2013, citing a desire to focus on projects with the "highest value and lowest risks"- and after spending more than $540 million dollars to develop the mine and writing down $300 million in additional losses to withdraw. Rio Tinto left in 2014, equally dividing its shares in the project between two Alaskan charitable foundations.

Now it's time for the Pebble Partnership to leave.

As today's ad makes clear, it's time for the Pebble Partnership to walk away from Bristol Bay.

Click here to send your message to the Pebble Partnership. Tell them to Walk Away from Bristol Bay and join the overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay residents - together with a strong majority of Alaskans - in opposition to the Pebble Mine.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Senior Policy Analyst, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land and Wildlife Program

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