For a decade, we have fought to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble mine.
As wild salmon populations decline globally, Bristol Bay's prolific wild salmon runs and the economies they support make it a place of international importance. It faces imminent threat from the proposed Pebble mine as well as hard rock mining on adjacent state and federal land. In order to stay thriving, the salmon must be protected from Pebble and other large-scale mining projects.
Get the Facts on this ill-conceived project:
What We've Achieved
2010: Nine Bristol Bay tribes, commercial fishermen and sportsmen and many others request to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to initiate the 404(c) process to protect Bristol Bay. This measure is authorized under the more than 40 year-old Clean Water Act.
2012: In response to the above request, the EPA conducted the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment. Over the course of three years, EPA issued two drafts of the Assessment, concluding that the Pebble proposal would negatively impact Bristol Bay salmon. Public input was accepted nationwide, with more than 1 million comments supporting EPA's work, and hundreds of scientists weighed in verifying these conclusions.
2013: The Alaska DNR signed and adopted a Determination of Reclassification and Plan Amendment to the Bristol Bay Area Plan, which significantly increased the amount of lands classified Wildlife Habitat and Public Recreation in the region. While a dramatic improvement over the 2005 Area Plan, which was drafted to slant management toward mining instead of habitat protections, there is still work to be done to achieve protections for salmon.
2013: The final Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment was released. Its findings were clear: it is not likely that any mine the size, type and location of Pebble can operate in Bristol Bay without harming salmon.
2013: Anglo American, a major investor in the Pebble mine, abandoned its $541-plus million investment in the project.
2014: Global mining giant Rio Tinto gifted its 19.1% stake in Northern Dynasty (now the sole member of the Pebble Limited "Partnership") to two Alaskan charities, therefore also walking away from the Pebble mine.
2014: EPA released its Proposed Determination proposing to limit mining within the Bristol Bay region on the basis that the mine would cause irreversible and unacceptable damage to the Bristol Bay salmon ecosystem. Over 1.5 million comments were submitted across the country on the proposal, 85.9% of which were in support of strong protections for Bristol Bay.
2014: When the Mount Polley tailings dam tragically failed in British Columbia, thousands learned about the threats posed by large-scale mining even with the most state-of-the-art technology. This spill provoked additional criticism of Pebble's claim that they can mine without accident in Bristol Bay.
2016: An independent federal watchdog, the Inspector General, determined the U.S. Environmental Protection agency acted fairly in its conduct during the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, the findings of which ultimately directed the Agency to limit mining activities in Bristol Bay due to its unacceptable risk on wild salmon, clean water and a thriving fish-based economy.
2016: Pebble's website states they are "only just now preparing to apply for permits," despite promising the permit applications were eminent, presumably while waiting for a favorable political window, for over ten years. Click here to see the full timeline.
May 2017: Hours after a closed-door meeting between the new EPA Administrator and the CEO of Northern Dynasty, the EPA Administrator ignored years of scientific study and overwhelming public opinion and directed staff to withdraw important protections for Bristol Bay salmon.
October 2017: In response to the May withdrawal request, an unprecedented number of comments were submitted to the EPA in support of strong protections for the region, including near unanimous support from the Bristol Bay region.
December 2017: Pebble filed for a key federal-level permit. The phase one plan presented in the permit application confirms that the proposed Pebble mine would be catastrophic for Bristol Bay and its world-famous salmon and trout fisheries. Learn more about the phase one plan here. In response, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the key agency in charge of reviewing the permit, laid out an unprecedentedly rushed permit review timeline.
January 2018: U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that he would not withdraw the 2014 Clean Water Act 404(c) Proposed Determination for Bristol Bay, Alaska.
May 2018: First Quantum Minerals backed out of an agreement with Pebble Limited Partnership that would have made it a major funding partner for the embattled Pebble copper and gold prospect, raising questions about the project's future.
August 2018: The Army Corps of Engineers released its final scoping report concerning Pebble’s phase one permit. The spring scoping period was the first formal opportunity for public to tell the Corps of Engineers what should be considered when conducting the Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble. Over 400,000 comments were submitting raising concerns about Pebble’s application, including the incompleteness of the plan submitted, lack of demonstrated proof of financial viability, inadequate opportunity for public input, improperly segmenting review due to a mine we know will expand, and myriad impacts to the region.
February 2019: The Army Corps of Engineers released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), launching a key public comment period. The DEIS for Pebble's initial proposal uses outdated and insufficient science, ignores important cultural and economic values, and falls substantially short of the robust analysis that the fishery, jobs, cultures and wild character of Bristol Bay call for. The Corps grossly underestimates the true impacts and fails to paint an accurate portrayal of the proposal. Still, the document shows the proposed Pebble mine will cause immense impacts to the Bristol Bay region, destroying more than 3,500 acres of wetlands and roughly 80 stream miles. The public is encouraged to comment. Learn more and take action here.
Header image by Brian O'Keefe