LONDON, 4 November — For weeks, Anglo American PLC have been running ads in the Guardian, the Economist and at Heathrow Airport, touting the benefits their mines bring to communities. Alaska Natives from Bristol Bay, where Anglo American proposes to dig the largest open-pit mine in North America, have today replied to this greenwashing by taking out a full page ad in CityAM with a blunt message to the company.
The full-page ad responds to London-based Anglo American's 'Mining Our Way' campaign, and states that 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose Anglo American's proposed Pebble Mine, because it would endanger the world's most important wild salmon fishing grounds and jeopardize the livelihoods of the Alaska Native communities in the region. The ad also notes that 50 of the world's leading jewellers have pledged not to use gold from the mine, which would generate an estimated 10 billion tonnes of toxic mine waste in a pristine fishery reserve.
“Anglo American's CEO promised: 'We won't dig a gold mine where we're not welcome,'” says the headline on the Alaskans' ad, over a photo of N ative subsistence fisher men with salmon. “Our people say: 'You're not welcome.”
The ad was placed by Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of our Land), an association of nine Yu'pik village corporations in Bristol Bay, and EARTHWORKS, an international mining reform organisation. It was designed by Big Think Studios of San Francisco.
Anglo American's campaign emphasizes the company's commitment to human rights and environmental protection, and the benefits that mining brings to indigenous communities. The campaign does not mention Bristol Bay, but seems aimed at softening Anglo American's image before publication of the December issue of National Geographic, which will feature a major story and photo essay on the controversy over the Pebble Mine.
“If Anglo American is committed to human rights, they should respect our right to continue with our way of life,” said Bobby Andrew, a Yu'pik fisherman and spokesman for Nunamta. “If they are committed to protecting the environment, they should leave Bristol Bay alone.”
Andrew is among a delegation of Alaskans who came to London this week to announce that 50 leading jewellers, including Tiffany & Co., Boucheron, and Fraser Hart have pledged not to use gold from the Pebble Mine. The delegation is meeting today with John MacKenzie, head of Anglo American's Copper Division, which oversees the Pebble Mine project, to remind them that last year CEO Cynthia Carroll promised the company would not go where they aren't wanted.
The Bristol Bay salmon fishery supplies a third of the world's commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon. It is the lifeblood of many Alaska Native communities and is critical to the state's economy, generating an average of $400 million a year and over 5,500 jobs. The UK is the largest consumer of tinned sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, with $43 million worth of salmon exported to the UK last year.
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EARTHWORKS is dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mining, digging and drilling, in the U.S. and worldwide.
Nunamta Aulukestai, Caretakers of Our Lands is a non-profit corporation. The members of Nunamta are eight Alaska Native Village Corporations, located in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. Nunamta acts to promote cooperation among the land owners, regulatory agencies and resource users of corporate lands; conserve land, water, and natural resources; and to maximize the benefits from the wise use of our lands to the shareholders, their descendents, their communities and culture.