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.