Update On The Pebble Mine

by Scott Hed Outreach Director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Alaska

On August 1, 2007 the world's third largest mining company, London-based Anglo American, announced it was forming a fifty-fifty partnership with Northern Dynasty to continue exploration and study work on the Pebble project. The agreement calls for Anglo to contribute up to $1.4 billion in stages until the decision to ultimately develop the mine is made, estimated in 2011, with production targeted to begin in 2015.

While that seems a long time from now, don't forget what is at stake here. This summer, the world's largest runs of wild salmon again returned to the Bristol Bay region. The run of sockeyes alone was over 42 million fish! Commercial fishery workers were busy again harvesting millions of fish worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Local residents put up fish for the coming year's consumption. And sport fishers continued to descend on the region, to chase trophy rainbow trout along with the salmon and dolly varden.

The conservation campaign for Bristol Bay has continued gaining momentum and supporters. Just a week after the mining company's announcement, the Federation of Fly Fishers named Upper Talarik Creek and the Koktuli River as the FFF's "Endangered Fishery of 2007" due to the threat posed by the Pebble Mine. Permit applications submitted to the State of Alaska have applied to the water rights for these important salmon spawning rivers. The water is "needed" to fill the massive (think 15-square miles and hundreds of feet deep) tailings pond, which will – cross your fingers – hold back the toxic byproducts of the Pebble project … forever … we hope.

Talented filmmakers Travis Rummel and Ben Knight of FeltSoul Media teamed up with Trout Unlimited Alaska this past summer and spent over two months in the Bristol Bay region filming a documentary to tell the story of the threats posed to Bristol Bay's fishery resources by the Pebble Mine. Visit feltsoulmedia.com and click on "The Wire" to read the blog entries from the film production. Funds are still needed to support production of this important movie, and a tax-deductible donation can be made (and gladly accepted) at savebristolbay.org. Thank you to all those who have contributed to what is sure to be an incredible film.

Support is also growing from the hunting conservation community. In the past month, letters advocating for the protection of Bristol Bay's fish and wildlife resources – and urging against the development of Pebble and other mines in the region – have come from the Dallas Safari Club and Wildlife Forever (the conservation affiliate of the North American Hunting and Fishing Clubs). While the largest threat to the region will ultimately be to the fishery resources, wildlife populations and hunting opportunities in the region are already being affected by the exploratory work being done.

Stay informed by visiting renewableresourcescoalition.org and sign the Bristol Bay conservation petition online at sportsmansalliance4ak.org.