Bristol Bay, Alaska© Ryan Peterson

Bristol Bay


Bristol Bay

Protecting the world’s greatest sockeye fishery

One of the greatest threats to Alaskan salmon is the proposed Pebble Mine at the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak rivers in the Bristol Bay region – the most productive salmon ecosystem in the world. If constructed, Pebble would be one of the world’s largest open pit copper/gold/molybdenum mines and with large earthen dams that could ultimately hold back up to 10 billion tons of toxic tailings and contaminated water. The mine and tailings lake would site just north of Iliamna Lake.

Hanging in the balance is a $1.5 billion-a-year salmon fishing economy and an important subsistence food source for Bristol Bay communities.

In 2012, Wild Salmon Center developed a technical report that examines the threats to Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fisheries posed by the Pebble Mine.  We will continue to work with partners to inform both Alaskans and the nation about the mine’s risk to salmon.

In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated a process using its authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay’s headwaters.  But that did not stop the Pebble Mine. Northern Dynasty, the mine’s sole remaining partner, launched a costly legal battle that stalled EPA’s efforts.

In May 2017, Northern Dynasty cut a deal with the Trump Administration’s new EPA administrator to reverse course and halt the Clean Water Act protection process. And later that year the mine filed for its federal permits to begin construction, under an extremely expedited schedule.

The Army Corps of Engineers released a draft environmental impact statement in March 2019 with an opportunity for public comment through June 29. But the Army Corps’ review fails to hold the Canadian mining company behind Pebble accountable on basic questions about how and where they plan to mine, and — mostly importantly — how they plan to protect the people, the clean water, the fishery, and the jobs of Bristol Bay.

As the mine’s permitting comes under scrutiny, we are working as a science and policy partner to the Defend Bristol Bay campaign. We simply cannot allow a high-risk mine to threaten Bristol Bay’s healthy salmon runs and the people who depend them.

© Ben Knight
$1.5 billion: value of Bristol Bay salmon fishing economy
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