Pebble Mine and Bristol Bay, Alaska: ‘The Wrong Mine in the Wrong Place’

Fly-fishing in Bristol Bay

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Fishing Boats in Bristol Bay

Fishing Boats in Bristol Bay

On May 25th, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a revised proposed determination under the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) to prohibit and restrict the use of certain waters in the Bristol Bay watershed for waste disposal from mining in the Pebble deposit.

The proposed Pebble Mine would have created massive amounts of wastewater contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants. If the EPA’s decision becomes final after public review and comment, it will provide waters flowing into Bristol Bay the strongest level of protection from pollution under current federal law.

Bristol Bay and its connected waters support sustainable fishing businesses, individual livelihoods, unparalleled sport fishing opportunities, and millennia-old Native Alaskan traditions that are part of the cultural and social fabric of this region. After years of widespread industry, environmental, Tribal, recreational, and local opposition to the Pebble Mine project, the Biden administration has implemented the strongest protections available under current federal law to conserve the region’s robust natural resources — upon which so many depend.

Even if it becomes final, the EPA decision does not automatically stop the proposed Pebble Mine, which threatened Bristol Bay’s invaluable and pristine natural habitat, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. Other mine sites have been proposed in the area as well. To learn more, see the resources below, including video of the Network’s May 25th Waterside Chat, which focused on the EPA’s decision and its implications.


Background

A Canadian-owned company has been moving to mine for minerals (including gold) close to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which includes the richest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. Runoff from the proposed Pebble Mine — including hazardous chemicals such as cyanide — would threaten the near-pristine habitat of salmon and other wildlife around Bristol Bay and the rivers and lakes that flow into it.

Communities and fishermen in and around Bristol Bay have depended for generations on abundant salmon runs for food, income and a way of life. Fishermen have maintained this sustainable relationship through a respect for the salmon’s natural habitat paired with science-based fisheries management. Pebble Mine would upset this balance for the benefit of the mine’s owners and investors, and at the expense of the people who live there.

As the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska said of Pebble Mine, “This is the wrong mine in the wrong place.” Learn more about why Pebble Mine is bad for Alaska: