Sportsmen from across the world dream of fishing Bristol Bay’s wild rivers, which support the world’s largest remaining wild salmon fishery, 35 fish species (including all five species of Pacific salmon) and nearly half of wild sockeye populations. In addition, the Bristol Bay region is home to undisturbed wildlife habitat for moose, caribou, bear and large populations of migratory waterfowl.
For generations, this wild watershed has fostered both a sustainable food source and a sustainable workforce for more than 14,000 people who are currently supported by Bristol Bay’s renowned sportfishing, hunting and outdoor recreation economy. The rich natural resources found here sustain Alaskans and Americans for generations to come, thus multiplying their worth indefinitely.
As highlighted in this video produced by our friends at Trout Unlimited, Bristol Bay is one fishery that deserves to remain as it is.
"The equation for Pebble Mine is simple. Either the salmon are important enough to protect, or you're willing to gamble on the world's largest sockeye fishery based on the history of large mines and their ability to never fail. Ever. From the time the mine goes into production until forever, there is a risk of a leak, spill or collapse resulting in toxic slurry flooding into the watershed that is the home of one of the largest salmon runs in the world."
-Alaska BHA Board Member, Steve Shannon
For more than a decade Alaska members of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers have been working alongside an army of Alaskan sportsmen and businesses to oppose development of the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to one of the world's last great salmon fisheries as well as robust populations of species prized by sportsmen. Through a unique national alliance that includes Alaskan native tribes, commercial fishermen and sportsmen, we have come together to defend a storied landscape that has continues to sustain a culture built by salmon.
The Project and Threat:
Bristol Bay is threatened by a proposal to develop one of the largest gold, copper and molybdenum mines in the world. The mineral deposit sits in the heart of salmon country, in the headwaters of the famed Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers. One natural disaster could cause catastrophic damage to the watershed and livelihoods of thousands. As former Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, stated, “I am not opposed to mining, but [Pebble] is the wrong mine in the wrong place.”
The Politics and History:
Minerals in Bristol Bay were first discovered 30 years ago by the Canadian mining company, Conoco, though it was not until 2007 when the Pebble Partnership was formed that a formal mining proposal in Bristol Bay was put forth. Soon thereafter the environmental review process for development of the mine commenced, and in 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency began reviewing the Clean Water Act 404 permit.
Through the EPA’s extensive review process, scientists found that development of the Pebble mining project would result in the following:
- direct loss of 55 to 85 miles of streams, 4 to 6.7 square miles of wetlands and, if fully developed, a potential loss of up to 114 miles of stream and a 30 square miles of wild country for tailings storage facilities;
- 10.7 billion tons of mine waste, 20 times the size of all mines in Alaska (3,000 pounds of waste rock for every person on the planet);
- toxic mine waste stored behind a 740-foot high, 4 mile long tailing dam – the largest earthen dam in the world, located upstream of the world’s largest salmon run;
- construction of a 100 mile road, 100 mile slurry pipeline and a power plant big enough to power Anchorage – all to open a 54 square mile mining district.
Since taking over the EPA in 2017, Administrator Scott Pruitt has waffled on whether to act on this science by proceeding with the Clean Water Act determination, most recently vowing to carry on with the review process.
While this is certainly good news, it’s imperative that hunters and anglers speak up and urge the EPA to protect this wild salmon fishery and unique wildlife habitat by rejecting the proposal. Please join BHA in making your voice heard by letting your representatives know that Pebble Mine is not welcome in Bristol Bay.