The Pebble mine is a massive copper/gold mine proposed in southwest Alaska at the headwaters of Bristol Bay and the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery. Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed:
- supplies roughly 50% of the world’s commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon.
- generates more than $1.5 billion a year in economic value, and
- employs 14,000 full and part-time workers.
Protecting America’s Greatest Salmon Fishery
On average, 30-40 million wild salmon make the epic migration from the ocean to the headwaters of Bristol Bay every year – like no place else on earth! Alaska native communities and commercial fishermen, who rely on the sustainable salmon fishery for their way of life and livelihoods, strongly oppose the proposed mine.
“The pure waters of Bristol Bay have sustained my family for generations,” says Everett Thompson, a commercial fisherman and shareholder in the Bristol Bay Native Corporation.
“This watershed provides a subsistence lifestyle and commercial fishery worth fighting for.”
Leading jewelry retailers have also expressed their opposition to the mine, recognizing that the Bristol Bay watershed is an ecosystem of international significance. Many have now signed the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge to show their support for protection of the Bristol Bay watershed.
Restaurants, chefs, supermarkets, churches, scientists, hunters and anglers have all urged protection for the Bristol Bay salmon fishery from the proposed Pebble Mine.
The Clean Water Act
Alaska Native communities, commercial and sports fishermen, businesses and conservation groups sportsmen called on the EPA to protect Bristol Bay from the impacts of large-scale mining. They petitioned the EPA to use its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act to protect the salmon’s spawning grounds from mine waste disposal.
The EPA’s scientific assessment determined the construction of a mine in the area would result in lasting harm to the salmon fishery. In July 2014, the EPA initiated a proposal, called the Proposed Determination, placing reasonable limitations on mine waste disposal in the Bristol Bay headwaters to protect the salmon fishery.
The effort to protect Bristol Bay scored a major victory in September 2013, when Anglo American cancelled its investment in Pebble Mine. And, in April 2014, when Rio Tinto followed suit. Now, a junior Canadian mining company, Northern Dynasty is the only company behind the project, with no major mining company to providing financing for the project.
Despite over 1.6 million comments of support for these Clean Water Act protections, including over 20,000 Alaskans, the EPA under the Trump Administration, initiated a process to reverse course on its proposed protections in July 2017.
Once again, the American public spoke out loud and strong on behalf of protecting Bristol Bay from the Pebble mine, and local communities, businesses, and leaders are resolute in their position that the home of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery is no place for large-scale industrial development.
On January 26, 2018, the EPA announced that it would not withdraw the proposed determination. The proposed limitations on mine waste disposal in Bristol Bay will stay in place while the EPA collects more information, with a final decision on whether to finalize the restrictions to come at the end of the permitting process.
Despite this important decision, the threat to Bristol Bay continues.
On January 5, 2018, Pebble submitted its permit application to the Army Corps of Engineers. The submission of this permit also triggers the Environmental Impact Statement process – the environmental review of the proposed mine.
Earthworks will continue to work with our allies in Alaska to protect Bristol Bay.