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The Army Corps of Engineers is on the brink of releasing the draft environmental review for the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive open pit mine proposed at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The controversial mine threatens the world’s largest and most productive wild salmon fishery, which topped the records this year with 62 million salmon!  Once the draft is release next month, the public will have 90 days to comment on the controversial mine plan

Pebble has proposed a smaller mine plan in an attempt at an easier permitting process. The small mine plan is a red herring. Once permitted, the Pebble Mine could expand to its full size, via subsequent permit expansions, as the company has promised its shareholders.

Even with the smaller mine plan, the size of the project is staggering:

  • a massive open pit and tailings dam that will store 1.1 billion tons of mine waste
  • a 230 MW power plant
  • a 188-mile long natural gas pipeline over land and under Cook Inlet and Iliamna Lake – Alaska’s largest freshwater lake
  • a barge system across Lake Iliamna to transport mine concentrate
  • an 83-mile transportation corridor
  • a port on the Alaska coast to ship the concentrate to Asia.

Despite the company’s efforts to reboot the project, the proposed Pebble Mine should be rejected. 

Here are four reasons to oppose Pebble…again:

1. It will harm salmon.

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery isn’t just any fishery. It’s the largest and most productive wild salmon fishery on earth – generating roughly half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon, powering the economy with 14,000 jobs, and feeding the world with healthy, sustainable food.  In 2014, the EPA conducted a scientific assessment of the potential impacts of large-scale mining on the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and proposed safety limits on mine waste disposal in Bristol Bay waters to ensure that large-scale mining won’t harm salmon.  EPA evaluated three mining scenarios; even the smallest mine – which is larger than Pebble’s “small” mine plan – would result in “unacceptable adverse effects.” That’s right. Pebble’s proposed smaller mine plan, without any expansions, will result in unacceptable impacts to salmon. 

2. The opposition is overwhelming.

There is overwhelming local opposition to the Pebble Project: a recent poll found that more than 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents are against it. Prominent jewelers like Tiffany & Co., Helzberg Diamonds, Zales and Jostens have expressed their opposition to the Pebble Mine and vowed not to use gold extracted from it. Commercial fishermen, churches, restaurants, seafood processors, hunters and anglers, and grocery store companies all support protection of Bristol Bay salmon fishery over large-scale mining.

3. Even the mining industry thinks it’s a lemon.

Northern Dynasty, the small Canadian company behind the project, does not have the financial means to build the mine, and it hasn’t been able to attract a mining partner that will.  Four major mining companies – some of the largest in the world – have already walked away from the project. Mitsubishi withdrew in 2011, Anglo American withdrew in 2013 after spending more than $540 million to develop the mine, Rio Tinto walked away in 2014, donating all of its Northern Dynasty Mineral shares to two Alaskan charitable foundations and First Quantum Minerals rejected a “framework agreement” in 2018 that would have given it the option to partner in the mine.  When even the industry thinks it’s a lemon, it’s a lemon.

4. It’s bad for America.

The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is a sustainable and renewable resource, whereas, the Pebble deposit is a nonrenewable resource. The ore from the Pebble mine will be shipped overseas to Asia, the profits will go to a foreign mining company, while the severe and lasting impacts stay here. In contrast, if the clean water and wild salmon habitat of the Bristol Bay watershed are protected, the salmon fishery can continue to feed our nation and power our economy forever.  Perpetual pollution or perpetual salmon?  An easy choice.

It’s hard to imagine a more irresponsible resource extraction project than Pebble.

Please stay tuned for the opportunity to comment!  

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