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Jewelers Join Fishermen & Others to Urge EPA to Protect World’s Greatest Salmon Fishery

Today, Earthworks announced that over 100 jewelers, representing more than $6 billion in annual sales, have pledged to support protection for Alaska’s Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine. This is the first time that such a large number of jewelers, including Tiffany & Co., Ben Bridge, Helzberg Diamonds, Birks and Mayors and independent jewelers have taken a position on a specific place or mine.

The jewelers, in letters to the EPA or by signing the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge, cite the danger posed by what would be the largest open pit mine in North America to the world’s largest wild salmon fishery. The gold and copper mine, a project of Anglo American PLC of London and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd of Canada, would dispose of billions of tons of toxic mine waste within the watershed as detailed in the Environmental Protection Agency's Draft Impact Assessment and reported in Mother Jones on May 29th, 2013.

“When a foreign mining company lobbies Washington for permission to dig the largest open pit mine in North America in the middle of one of Alaska’s most ecologically sensitive areas, it is clearly time for the White House to say 'no,'” said Brian Leber, President of Leber Jeweler Inc., and a third generation jeweler. “The EPA has the authority to prevent this travesty, but they need to act now.”

Jewelry demand accounts for more than 65% of annual mined production of gold. The proposed Pebble Mine contains the world’s largest undeveloped gold deposit, according to the mining companies.

“The American public doesn’t want to see the gold jewelry they buy come at the expense of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks, a nonprofit conservation organization. “We commend the jewelers for their principled position.”

Jewelers have also joined commercial fishermen, Alaska Native Tribes, investors, supermarkets, and sportsmen in calling on the EPA to protect Bristol Bay by invoking section 404c of the Clean Water Act to restrict the dumping of mine waste in streams and wetlands that drain into the bay. The EPA’s own draft impact statement, released earlier this year and open for comment through June 30th, finds that 90 miles of streams could be blocked or eliminated, another 34 miles harmed by reduced stream flow, and 4,800 acres of wetlands destroyed under normal operation of the mine.

“Pacific Northwest wild salmon are practically gone, and the jobs that depended on them are gone, too,” said Christina Miller, director of Ethical Metalsmiths. “EPA knows Bristol Bay is headed down the same road if they allow the Pebble Mine to move ahead. That’s why our member jewelers urge the EPA to keep toxic mine waste out of Bristol Bay’s waters.”

The fishery provides 14,000 jobs for hard-working fishermen, and a recent study by the University of Alaska’s Institute for Social and Economic Research valued the economic impact of the fishery at $1.5 billion annually.

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