The Pebble deposit is a massive storehouse of gold, copper and molybdemum, located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. If built, Pebble would be one of the largest mines in the world. Because of its size, geochemistry and location, Pebble runs a high risk of polluting Bristol Bay, one of the world’s few and most productive wild salmon strongholds that supports a $500 million commercial and sport fishery. For this reason, Trout Unlimited is working with a diverse group of fishermen, guides, lodge owners, Alaska Natives, scientists, chef, restaurant owners, seafood lovers and many others to try to stop the Pebble development and to protect Bristol Bay.
The proposed mine developers, the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) was a consortium of the world’s second largest multinational mining corporation, London-based Anglo American, along with Northern Dynasty, a junior mining company headquartered in Canada. Anglo American’s environmental track record does not bode well for Bristol Bay and Northern Dynasty has little experience safeguarding the environment having never developed a mine to date. Recently, however, Anglo American backed out of the project leaving Northenr Dynasty the only member. Although PLP has not released its final mine plans, preliminary designs indicate that the Pebble Mine complex would span 20 square miles of state land in the Bristol Bay watershed. Located in a seismically active region, Pebble would require the world’s largest earthen dam to be built, some 700 feet high and several miles in length. Independent scientists have questioned whether the dam could withstand the force of a massive earthquake, such as the 9.2 quake that devastated Anchorage in 1964.
The dam and 10-square-mile-wide containment pond are intended to hold between 2.5 billion and 10 billion tons of mine waste that Pebble would produce over its lifetime - nearly enough to bury the city fo Seattle, WA. Because the sulfide, or acid-generating, nature of the Pebble ore body, the waste would require environmental treatment in perpetuity. Any release of mine waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to harm Bristol Bay’s salmon runs.
The PLP originally stated that they plan to apply for federal and state permits in spring of 2011, though we still have not seen any permit applications. Regardless, now is the time to get involved to stop this mega-project and protect Bristol Bay. Now is the time to educate elected officials, agency heads, the media and anyone who cares about the future of wild salmon.
Please consider taking action today to stop the proposed Pebble Mine.