Why Mining in Bristol Bay is Still A Bad Idea

Fly-fishing in Bristol Bay

Photo: Fly-fishing in Bristol Bay, via World Wildlife Fund

Here we go again.

The Trump administration has decided that the voices of thousands of native Alaskans, fisherman, outdoor recreationists and others need to be raised up one more time in opposition to mining in Bristol Bay.

On Feb. 20, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Pebble Limited Partnership’s application to discharge fill material for the purpose of developing a copper-molybdenum-gold mine in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska. On March 1, the public comment period opened for 90 days. You can send in comments by using this link.

According to the Corps website for the project, “The USACE has completed the Draft EIS for the proposed Pebble Project. The Draft EIS is intended to disclose the likely impacts from the proposed project and to offer the public, tribes, and governmental agencies a chance to review and comment. The Final EIS will address all substantive comments on the Draft EIS and is estimated to be released in early 2020. The Draft EIS is available for download here.

The Pebble Mine project has been in the works for more than 10 years and has always been controversial, and this latest move by the Army Corps is no different.

“Though already massive, Pebble’s current permit application under review by the Corps of Engineers considers only a small fraction of the overall impact the Pebble mine would ultimately have in Bristol Bay. Because of this, the review process for the proposed Pebble mine underway is woefully inadequate and should be halted,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited. “A giant mine proposal slated for the heart of salmon country should never have advanced this far at all and is overwhelmingly opposed by Alaskans. It demands a far more rigorous review than the rushed, inadequate effort we’ve seen from the Corps of Engineers.”

Our friends in Alaska, including Senator Dan Sullivan, troubled by the brevity of the public comment period, are asking the Corps to extended it to 270 days.

“The 90-day comment period is outrageous for a project of this magnitude and complexity, and we strongly encourage the Corps to extend the comment period to at least 270 days to allow for adequate review of this devastating project,” said Williams.

For our readers in Alaska or with ties to Alaska, please let Senator Murkowski know you think the permit for the Pebble Mine process has been rushed and is inadequate, and that Bristol Bay’s salmon and clean water need to be protected.

A recent article in Hatch magazine quotes Brian Kraft, owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge in Bristol Bay, about this new effort to move the Pebble project forward. “Though we know if permitted, Pebble will mine the full deposit, even this initial mine plan makes clear that the Pebble Partnership cannot protect clean water and salmon in Bristol Bay, or the landscape conditions that attract anglers from around the globe. Because of this, Alaskans and Bristol Bay businesses have said NO to this mine for years. Pebble Mine would fundamentally alter a world-class fishery upon which family businesses and 37,000 recreational fishermen rely, and rivers that are slated to bring 40 million wild salmon to the region this year,” Kraft said.

Bristol Bay Native Corporation President & CEO Jason Metrokin, who was also quoted in the Hatch article, stated, “Now is the time to ensure that Pebble Mine is thoroughly vetted, the public’s voice is heard, and Pebble Limited Partnership addresses the clear deficiencies in its application and plans in Bristol Bay. A 270-day comment period on the Draft EIS is the first—and necessary—step in holding the Pebble Limited Partnership accountable during the permitting process. Bristol Bay cannot become a laboratory to test unproven and unprecedented mining practices.”

Many articles have been written on this issue, and these pieces offer additional insights:

While mining can and should be done responsibly, what was true more than 10 years ago is still true today: the Pebble mine project is, in the words of Alaska’s former Senator Ted Stevens, “the wrong mine in the wrong place.”

About Tom Sadler

Tom Sadler is the Network's deputy director. He has an extensive background in advocacy and journalism and a passion for oceans and fly-fishing. 

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