We are all sick of hearing about the Pebble Mine. I imagine you might be, too.
I’ve been hearing and reading about this project for my whole life. From growing up fishing salmon in the Pacific Northwest, to commercial fishing in Alaska to pay for college, to a career in the conservation field, it has perpetually hung in the background, pervasive and opaque as an Alaskan fog bank.
The claim was first staked on the Pebble deposit at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers in 1987, a year before I was born.
Northern Dynasty Minerals, the Canadian mining conglomerate incessantly driving the project forward, acquired the mineral rights and began exploration in 2001, when I was in 6th grade.
Felt Soul Media’s genre-defining conservation film, Red Gold, came out in my freshman year of college, bringing the issue to light for anglers and conservationists.
The Environmental Protection Agency issued a damning assessment of the water quality and fisheries impacts of the proposed mine in 2013, the year I finished graduate school.
That determination, and all the science behind it, was withdrawn in July of this year. The stage is now set for Pebble to move forward with permitting, which could now happen as soon as 2020.
You’ve all heard the talking points: 14,000 good Alaskan jobs and livelihoods depend on the wild salmon runs of Bristol Bay, the largest remaining sockeye fishery on earth, $1.5 billion in sustainable economic output every year. The mine would be situated on a high saddle dividing Upper Talarik Creek from the South Fork Koktuli River. Talarik drains into the massive Lake Iliamna, then into the Kvichak River, into Bristol Bay. The Koktuli drains into the Mulchatna, a major tributary of the Nushagak.
The Nush and the Kvichak produce the lion’s share of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery, and their headwaters are under threat.
And this isn’t just sockeye we’re talking about. The four other species of Pacific salmon, huge native rainbow trout, dolly varden, grayling, caribou, moose, and grizzly bears would be affected by this disaster-prone project. Tailing ponds from mines like these always leak, and this one would be located in one of the most seismically-active areas on earth.
The American Fly Fishing Trade Association declared today, August 24, as a Day for Bristol Bay. Many of AFFTA’s member retailers, brands, and guides are donating a portion of their profits from that day to the Bristol Bay Defense Fund, a coalition of concerned businesses and non-profits aggressively lobbying to halt this dangerous project. MeatEater stands with that coalition, and we implore you to lend your voice and your resources to help stop the Pebble Mine.
Yes, we are all sick of hearing about the Pebble Mine. That’s why we need to bury the idea forever.
Feature image via Bryan Gregson.