EARTHWORKS

Bristol Bay

Alaska | Bristol Bay: Northern Dynasty Minerals

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The Pebble mine is a massive copper/gold mine proposed in southwest Alaska at the headwaters of Bristol Bay and of the world's largest wild sockeye salmon fishery.

If developed, it would be the biggest mine in North America, with an estimated footprint of 30 square miles. Based on current projections, the mine would generate 10 billion tons of mine waste. The tailings waste would be stored in a seismically active area behind earthen dams. The mine has proposed to use nearly 35 billion gallons of water a year and would dewater key salmon spawning streams. It would also require the construction of a 100-mile road, and a massive power plant.

Alaska native communities and commercial fishermen, who rely on the sustainable salmon fishery for their way of life and livelihoods, strongly oppose the mine. 

In 2008, Yupik elder and Nunamta Aulukestai leader Bobby Andrew told Anglo American in an Op-Ed in the Guardian: “The proposed Pebble mine has the potential to do real harm to Anglo American's reputation - you can't force a community to accept a mine it does not want.” 

These communities scored a major victory in September 2013, when Anglo American cancelled its investment in Pebble Mine.

Leading jewelry retailers have also expressed their opposition to the mine, recognizing that the Bristol Bay watershed is an ecosystem of international significance and that much of the area is designated a Fishery Reserve. Many have now signed the Bristol Bay Pledge to show their support for protection of the Bristol Bay watershed (Many of these jewelers are also signatories to the Golden Rules.)

Strong opposition to the mine is backed by an EPA assessment that says the construction of a mine in the area would result in the destruction of  55– 87 miles of streams used for spawning and rearing habitat for coho salmon, sockeye salmon, and Chinook salmon, as well as thousands of acres of wetlands. In the follow up public comment period, hundreds of thousands of people expressed their opposition to the mine.

While Anglo American's decision is great news, the struggle to protect Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine is far from over.  Alaska Native communities, commercial and sports fishermen, businesses and conservation groups sportsmen and are now calling on the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the impacts of large-scale mining.

"The pure waters of Bristol Bay have sustained my family for generations, says Everett Thompson, a tribal member and shareholder in the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. "This watershed provides a subsistence lifestyle and commercial fishery worth fighting for. We will fight to save this place with all we have so that my daughter and her generation have the opportunity to carry on living from and protecting Bristol Bay – a home beyond compare." 


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Tagged with: pebble mine, nunamta, no dirty gold, bristol bay, anglo american, alaska

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