Tribes, Fishers, and Local Residents Oppose Pebble Mine

It’s a battle that has been brewing for years and one that is not likely to end soon… the Pebble Mine in Alaska. We highlighted the concerns about this project on our 2011 list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers™. At American Rivers, we know very well that while some potentially harmful projects might be quickly defeated, others require long-term perseverance to ensure protection.  Defending the fate of the Bristol Bay Rivers will require long-term diligence no doubt.

This past week, local residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinionabout the proposed mine with a ballot initiative. Apparently, the anti-mining measure prevailed gaining 40 more votes among 526 total ballots cast. If that were the end of the story… great!  But of course, there is more to the tale. There is a challenge on the legality of the ballot initiative, as the state claims the ordinance is unenforceable. A judge in Anchorage will hear arguments on November 7. The challenge could end up in the Alaska Supreme Court before all is said and done.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, our Most Endangered Rivers partners suffered a defeat in a dispute over exploration permits at the Pebble Mine site. Our partner, Nunamta Aulukestai, charged that temporary exploration permits issued by the state to mining companies were illegal because regulators did not give public notice or conduct an analysis of whether the permits are in the public interest. An Alaska Superior Court judge ruled that the state did not violate the Alaska Constitution when it issued the permits.

This month, National Geographic published an article discussing the challenges that communities are facing as they have been confronted with this project. They highlight the results of a poll from June 2011, where researchers found that 86.2% of Bristol Bay fishermen oppose the mine. This is consistent with previous polls that have found that Alaskans are largely not supportive of mining in Bristol Bay and risking clean water, abundant salmon runs, and the health of local citizens.

Our native tribal partners are fighting to preserve their heritage and livelihood in Bristol Bay. Check out their story in this powerful video from The Wilderness Society!  Then, tell the EPA to protect the waters of Bristol Bay for future generations.