Pebble Mine Permit DENIED!

The Army Corps is finally acknowledging the very real risks the proposed gold and copper mega-mine poses to the cherished Bristol Bay.

Melanie Brown, center, pulls up sockeye salmon near Naknek, Alaska. Brown comes from a family that has a long history of fishing in Bristol Bay, and she wants to pass along the legacy to her children. Fishing with her are daughter Mariana Bell, left, and assistant Andres Camacho.

Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In a sweeping about-face, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today rejected the Pebble Mine—the widely condemned gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. The Pebble Mine would have threatened the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery that generates $1.5 billion in annual revenue and 14,000 jobs. Salmon have sustained the subsistence culture of Alaska Natives for millennia.

In a statement, the Army Corps “determined that the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.”

In denying Pebble’s permit, the Army Corps is finally acknowledging the very real risks to Bristol Bay—and the economies, people, wildlife and fish that depend upon it.

The Pebble Mine was always the wrong mine in the wrong place, and the Army Corps was right to listen to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Department of the Interior, tribes, commercial fishermen, businesses, independent scientists and conservation groups who have all raised serious concerns about the project.

But a permit denial will not protect the people and economy of Bristol Bay over the long term. A permit denial leaves the door open for future mining in Bristol Bay under more politically favorable circumstances.

President-elect Biden has vowed to block the project:

“Bristol Bay has been foundational to the way of life of Alaska Natives for countless generations, provides incredible joy for recreational anglers from across the country, and is an economic powerhouse that supplies half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. It is no place for a mine. The Obama-Biden administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today. . . As President, I will. . . protect Bristol Bay and all it offers to Alaska, our country, and the world.”

In a statement from United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB), Board President Robert Heyano declared: 

“The people of Bristol Bay have long known that our home is no place for a mine like Pebble. Today, we celebrate the appropriate action taken by the USACE in finally acknowledging this underlying truth: Pebble’s proposal is too toxic for our region and cannot be built without devastating the environment that sustains our cultures and communities. But our work is not done. We will continue to advocate for permanent protections for Bristol Bay until we are sure that our pristine lands and waters will remain intact for our children’s children and all future generations." 

Denying Pebble's permit application was a great--and necessary--first step. But our fight continues until the threat of mining no longer looms over the people of Bristol Bay.

We urge the Biden EPA to permanently protect Bristol Bay using its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. Only an EPA veto can give the people of Bristol Bay and the businesses who rely on it the certainty that they deserve—and ensure that Bristol Bay, Alaska is protected for generations to come.

Bristol Bay is too special to risk on a giant mine. Today’s news is indeed something to be thankful for!

Stop the Pebble Mine, Save Bristol Bay

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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