The Pebble Mine Will No Longer Threaten Bristol Bay

December 3rd, 2020 - by Joel Reynolds / Natural Resources Defense Council & Taryn Kiekow Heimer / NRDC

The Pebble Mine Has Been Stopped in its Tracks

Joel Reynolds / Natural Resources Defense Council

NEW YORK (December 2, 2020) — Last week, the US Army Corps of Engineers rejected the Federal Clean Water Act permit application for the disastrous Pebble Mine, concluding that “the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.”

Its decision spares Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay and its Native communities from being destroyed by this proposed gold and copper mega-mine and the billions of tons of mining waste it would dump into the rivers, lakes, streams, and wildlands of Bristol Bay.

This is an incredible victory for Bristol Bay’s world-renowned salmon runs that are a lifeline for the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq Tribes … the $1.5 billion a year commercial fishing industry … and the region’s pristine wilderness and abundant wildlife, including brown bears, whales, and majestic bald eagles.

And it’s a truly game-changing win for us at NRDC, who have been fighting against this project for over a decade — and for NRDC supporters who have fought alongside us every step of the way.

(Read more about this incredible win for Bristol Bay and our planet below.)

Together, we proved that public pressure works: One by one, four of the largest mining companies in the world — Mitsubishi Corporation, Anglo American, Rio Tinto, and First Quantum Minerals — walked away from the Pebble Mine after overwhelming grassroots opposition from Indigenous communities, the public, and NRDC activists like you.

And last spring, Morgan Stanley dumped over 99% of its shareholding in Northern Dynasty Minerals, the 100 percent owner of the mine.

NRDC activists like you also barraged the Army Corps of Engineers with tens of thousands of messages urging that agency to reject the permit for the project — and our voices were heard!

But this Victory Isn’t the Final Chapter

Northern Dynasty has already promised to appeal the permit denial, and when it does, we will be ready to defend the denial before the Army Corps and, if necessary, in federal court.

Most importantly, we still need permanent protection for Bristol Bay, so no future destructive industrial projects like the Pebble Mine can be built there under any administration — EVER.

The incoming Biden administration has vowed to block the Pebble Mine. President-elect Biden has said that as president, he will “protect Bristol Bay and all it offers to Alaska, our country, and the world.”

We won’t stop fighting until we can be sure that Bristol Bay is permanently protected — and I’m sure you won’t either.

We’ll be counting on you in the months ahead to help us hold President-elect Biden to his promise and direct his EPA to safeguard Bristol Bay after Inauguration Day.

We’ve come so far — I hope you’ll consider making a special gift to help us get this job done and win permanent protection for this extraordinary wilderness and the people who have thrived there for millennia. 

I’ll be sure to keep you updated as we enter the final phase of this fight — but today, please join me in celebrating this incredible news for Bristol Bay, its people, and our planet. Please consider supporting this critical fight today.

Joel Reynolds is the Western Director and a Senior Attorney and the NRDC.

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Melanie Brown (center) pulls up sockeye salmon near Naknek, Alaska. Fishing alongside are her daughter Mariana Bell and assistant Andres Camacho. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Pebble Mine Permit DENIED!

Taryn Kiekow Heimer / Natural Resoures Defense Council

BRISTOL BAY, Alaska (November 25, 2020) — The Army Corps is finally acknowledging the very real risks the proposed gold and copper mega-mine poses to the cherished Bristol Bay. In a sweeping about-face, the US Army Corps of Engineers today rejected the Pebble Mine — the widely condemned gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska. The Pebble Mine would have threatened the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery that generates $1.5 billion in annual revenue and 14,000 jobs. Salmon have sustained the subsistence culture of Alaska Natives for millennia.

In a statement, the Army Corps “determined that the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.”

In denying Pebble’s permit, the Army Corps is finally acknowledging the very real risks to Bristol Bay — and the economies, people, wildlife and fish that depend upon it.

The Pebble Mine was always the wrong mine in the wrong place, and the Army Corps was right to listen to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), US Department of the Interior, tribes, commercial fishermen, businesses, independent scientists and conservation groups who have all raised serious concerns about the project.

But a permit denial will not protect the people and economy of Bristol Bay over the long term. A permit denial leaves the door open for future mining in Bristol Bay under more politically favorable circumstances.

President-elect Biden has vowed to block the project:

“Bristol Bay has been foundational to the way of life of Alaska Natives for countless generations, provides incredible joy for recreational anglers from across the country, and is an economic powerhouse that supplies half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. It is no place for a mine. The Obama-Biden administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today. . . As President, I will. . . protect Bristol Bay and all it offers to Alaska, our country, and the world.”

In a statement from United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB), Board President Robert Heyano declared: 

“The people of Bristol Bay have long known that our home is no place for a mine like Pebble. Today, we celebrate the appropriate action taken by the USACE in finally acknowledging this underlying truth: Pebble’s proposal is too toxic for our region and cannot be built without devastating the environment that sustains our cultures and communities. But our work is not done. We will continue to advocate for permanent protections for Bristol Bay until we are sure that our pristine lands and waters will remain intact for our children’s children and all future generations.” 

Denying Pebble’s permit application was a great — and necessary — first step. But our fight continues until the threat of mining no longer looms over the people of Bristol Bay.

We urge the Biden EPA to permanently protect Bristol Bay using its authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. Only an EPA veto can give the people of Bristol Bay and the businesses who rely on it the certainty that they deserve—and ensure that Bristol Bay, Alaska is protected for generations to come.

Bristol Bay is too special to risk on a giant mine. Today’s news is indeed something to be thankful for!

Taryn Kiekow Heimer is Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.