Alaska - Bristol Bay - Proposed Pebble Mine

State: Alaska
Region: southwest Alaska, near Lake Iliamna and Lake Clark
Description:

The proposed Alaska Pebble Mine project is an extremely large and controversial copper, gold and molybdenum open-pit mine proposed for development within one of Alaska’s Crown Jewel watersheds draining into Bristol Bay in southwest Alaska. A report by the EPA warns of serious threats to clean water and fish habitat, were the mining proposal to go into effect. In 2014, after three years of peer-reviewed study, the Obama administration's EPA invoked a rarely used provision of the Clean Water Act to try to protect Bristol Bay after finding that a mine "would result in complete loss of fish habitat due to elimination, dewatering, and fragmentation of streams, wetlands, and other aquatic resources" in some areas of the bay.

In 2017, after meeting with the mining company's CEO, EPA director Scott Pruitt directed staff to withdraw the plan to protect the watershed.

The 40,000 square mile Bristol Bay Watershed produces the world’s greatest commercial salmon fishery and internationally renowned salmon and trout runs that attract anglers from all over the world. The waters in this region have long been an integral part of the state’s economy, generating $400 million in revenue annually and have provided tens of thousands of sustainable jobs, subsistence foods and other benefits to Alaskans for generations. In Summer 2017 a record 60 million salmon surged through Bristol Bay. Close to 30 million of those were caught and will feed nearly half the world's demand.

Extracting Pebble's low-grade mineral deposits would require mining on a colossal scale: a cavernous open pit (2 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep) and underground block caving (up to 5,000 feet deep). By the partnership's own estimates, this brutal hard rock mining will generate over 9 billion tons of toxic waste and will require the construction of three enormous earthen dams (all over 700 feet tall – roughly the size of 3 Hoover Dams - only built out of dirt, not concrete) to store the waste forever.

 

View a short film of our trip over the Elko, Nevada gold mining operation. This trip showcased the massive scale of mining to give tribal members from Alaska's threatened Bristol Bay and local native Shoshone Indians the aerial perspective.