by Travis Rummel
When I ask folks in the lower forty-eight if they’ve heard of the Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the answer is invariably ”no.” This, despite the fact that a Canadian company, Northern Dynasty is proposing to develop the largest open-pit mine in North America. The location is the headwaters of the greatest two sockeye-producing rivers in the world. These headwaters provide spawning habitat for millions and millions of salmon and house somewhere around 300 billion dollars in gold, copper and molybdenum.
It is okay if you haven’t heard of it, neither had my filmmaking cohort Ben Knight, until I approached him about making a film on the topic. It didn't take us long to realize that this project would be far more than a fishing film.
We were fortunate enough to spend the majority of our summer in the Bristol Bay region. We followed the sockeye, king and chum salmon from tidal water to their spawning grounds and tried to get our heads wrapped around the whole Pebble Mine issue as we spent time with commercial, subsistence and sport fishermen.
Based on our experience in Alaska, this is truly one of the biggest conservation challenges of the day and needs all of the help and attention the conservation community can muster. The mining companies (Northern Dynasty and recent UK partner Anglo American) have very deep pockets, and the billions of dollars worth of minerals will continue to tempt, unless the area can be entirely protected and made off-limits to mining.