Michael Melford/National Geographic
The Bristol Bay watershed will not be riddled with tailings ponds and pockmarked with the Northern Hemisphere's largest open-pit mine, thanks to a ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.

Native Alaskans Laud Environmental Protection Agency's Nixing of Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is nixing, for now, a mining proposal that would replace the world’s biggest sockeye salmon spawning grounds with the world’s largest open pit mine, pending further study.

Alaska Native groups, environmentalists and fishermen are lauding the EPA's decision not to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit for the mine, proposed by the Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement on February 28. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth. This process is not something the Agency does very often, but Bristol Bay is an extraordinary and unique resource.”

The move came after the agency released its environmental assessment and after 360 scientists signed an open letter urging the EPA to turn down the proposal.

RELATED: 360 Scientists Urge Environmental Protection Agency to Quash Bristol Bay Pebble Mine

At least 31 Alaska Native villages are located in the Bristol Bay watershed region as well, and many have opposed the project, making the EPA decision welcome.

“Bristol Bay Native Corporation appreciates that EPA will identify appropriate options to protect Bristol Bay from the risks Pebble poses,” said Jason Metrokin, executive director of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), in a statement. “While BBNC supports responsible development, including mining, the science has shown that the proposed Pebble mine presents unacceptable risks to Bristol Bay salmon, people and existing economies. BBNC shareholders and area residents overwhelmingly agree. We will continue to focus on ending the threat of the proposed Pebble mine and on creating other appropriate economic opportunities and jobs.”

Nunamta Aulukestai, a consortium of Native Alaska groups and communities whose name means Caretakers of the Land, concurred.

“We are happy with the EPA’s decision to take this crucial step. I and more than 30 other Alaskan leaders just came back from Washington to urge the EPA to do so,” said the group’s director, Kimberly Williams, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Now we’re one big step closer to protecting our salmon, our resources and our people from the proposed Pebble mine.”


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