Ten Reasons Why EPA Must Use the Clean Water Act to Permanently Protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay From the Pebble Mine

Northern Dynasty’s proposed Pebble Mine took a hit this month! The Pedro Bay Alaska Native Corporation announced that it has agreed to secure a conservation easement on land it owns around Iliamna Lake. The land includes part of the “northern corridor” through which Northern Dynasty proposes to transport its ore. It’s yet another sign of the adamant local opposition to the Pebble Mine, which threatens Alaska’s Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery. Yet, Northern Dynasty says it plans to forge ahead.

The prospect of destructive mining has hung over Bristol Bay for far too long. For more than a decade, Bristol Bay tribes, fishermen, businesses, churches, conservation groups and communities have been asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use the Clean Water Act to protect the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery.  Here are the top 10 reasons for EPA to provide lasting protection from large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay:

  1. Bristol Bay salmon feed the world. Alaska’s Bristol Bay supports the largest and most productive wild salmon fishery on earth, with 50 million wild salmon predicted in 2021! This phenomenal fishery supplies more than half of the world’s commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon, providing healthy sustainable food for Alaska, America and the world.  
  2. It’s an economic powerhouse. The Bristol Bay salmon fishery generated $2.2 billion in economic benefits in 2019, with $990 million in economic activity in Alaska, and $800 million in the Pacific Northwest.
  3. It sustains Alaska Native communities & culture. Alaska Native communities rely on salmon as a primary source of food, and 29% of Alaska’s subsistence harvest came from Bristol Bay in 2019. The Yup’ik and Dena’ina are part of the last intact, sustainable salmon-based cultures in the world.
  4. Jobs. The Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery generated 15,000 jobs in 2019, with 8,500 harvesters, 6,000 processors and a multitude of recreation and tourism-related jobs.
  5. A thriving ecosystem. The Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery is the cornerstone to an entire ecosystem, sustaining bears, eagles, beluga whales, seals and many other species.
  6. Pebble would cause perpetual pollution. The proposed mine is predicted to result in vast amounts of water pollution that will continue, and require water treatment, in perpetuity. In 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the Pebble proposal  would result in “significant degradation” to aquatic resources and that it is “contrary to the public interest.”
  7. Salmon, not Pebble, is in America’s best interest.  The Pebble deposit is a nonrenewable resource; Bristol Bay wild salmon are a sustainable renewable resource. Northern Dynasty is proposing to transport the ore to a port on the coast, where it will likely be shipped overseas to Asia, the profits will go to a foreign mining company, while the severe and lasting impacts stay here. In contrast, if the clean water and wild salmon habitat of the Bristol Bay watershed are protected, the salmon fishery can continue to feed our nation and power our economy forever. 
  8. Pebble will exacerbate climate change. The proposed Pebble Mine would be powered by a newly-constructed 270-megawatt electricity generating plant and a 188-mile natural gas pipeline. The draft environmental impact statement for the project estimates that operation of the mine will emit almost one million tons of greenhouse gas each year.
  9. Even the mining industry thinks Pebble is a lemon. Northern Dynasty does not have the financial means to build the mine, and it hasn’t been able to attract a mining partner that will.  Four major mining companies–some of the largest in the world–have already walked away from the project. Mitsubishi withdrew in 2011, Anglo American withdrew in 2013 after spending more than $540 million to develop the mine. Rio Tinto walked away in 2014, donating all of its Northern Dynasty Mineral shares to two Alaskan charitable foundations and First Quantum Minerals rejected a “framework agreement” in 2018 that would have given it the option to partner in the mine.  When even the industry thinks it’s a lemon, it’s a lemon.
  10. The people of Bristol Bay don’t want the mine. The Pebble Mine has been strongly opposed by the majority of Alaskans, and particularly by those in Bristol Bay, including Bristol Bay Tribes, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay and the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. They have been asking the EPA to use its authority to protect Bristol Bay from large-scale mining, including the Pebble Mine, for more than a decade. They are supported by investors, churches, jewelers, hunters and anglers, businesses, scientists, conservation groups and more. 

 PLEASE JOIN US IN ASKING EPA TO PROTECT ALASKA’S BRISTOL BAY!  TAKE ACTION HERE!