As we’ve shared on our Facebook page recently, there’s big news coming out of the Pebble Mine camp. To be real, all of it is disappointing and frustrating. What’s not, however, is the strong and quick reaction our Bristol Bay communities have made in response.
Just a quick reminder that the fishery where Steve fishes for wild sockeye salmon aboard the F/V Ava Jane each summer is under threat because a large mining corporation wants to extract copper ore (a low-grade mixture of copper and other substances, like sulfur, which becomes toxic when extracted) from the fragile ecosystem that supports Bristol Bay’s salmon, tundra, and communities.
Right before Christmas, Pebble Limited Partnership, the engine behind the attempts at the world’s largest deposit copper mine headed by Tom Collier, announced that they finally convinced another investor to join them after mining giants Anglo American and Rio Tinto dropped out of the project in 2013 and 2014, leaving 100% of the financial backing to Northern Dynasty. First Quantum Minerals is another Canadian-based company financing large projects in Panama. Although the backing of these initial stages seems significant, it is important to know that it does not mean the two are in partnership. Rather, what First Quantum Minerals announced was an investment agreement to help Pebble get through permitting because Northern Dynasty could not financially support the project on their own.
The Pebble camp sees Bristol Bay as an economic driver--a source of money. We see Bristol Bay as it truly is--riverbeds that support an undeniably sustainable and strong salmon population, acres of tundra that feed and shelter bear, caribou and moose, and home to folks who believe in the protection of these things.
Then, on the first Friday of the new year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that the Pebble Limited Partnership’s application for permits is complete, which kicks off a lengthy review process. The road to approval is shortening and, under the current administration, could move as swiftly as our rivers during a minus tide.
But! It is not a mine, not even a permit (yet!). It does allow us, though, to take a closer look at the false promises Pebble Limited Partnership has been spewing about a smaller and “fish-safe” project, as so aptly outlined by the United Tribes of Bristol Bay.
The permit application reveals the glaring expanse of the project, which would span from the Kenai Peninsula (the start to a gas pipeline) and across Cook Inlet (Anchorage’s waterway), where they would need to build a port simply to access the project. It shows that the mine footprint (just the mine!) could easily surpass 10 square miles. Knowledge is power, and the groups fighting Pebble will certainly be stronger the more we can get. This new information emboldens us to put on our X-Tra Tuffs and Grundéns gear* and get on deck. We’re fishermen and prepared to take on the elements, whether they’re rainy southeast winds or ecosystem-crushing corporations, in order to save what we love.
Our commitment to Bristol Bay is only partially economic, as the fish there do provide our livelihood. But the biggest driver comes from our opportunities to really experience and participate in one of North America’s last wild places. Our summers spent there inform our responsibility to protect it. We want to see our kids, Ava and Tommy, come to know it as well as we do should they so choose. We want to see the fish continue to thrive. We want to see it held in the high regard its beauty and pristine nature warrants.
How do you save what you love?
Then share it with your communities.
Then write a more personal letter to your own representatives.
Then, maybe, remind yourself why you’re doing all this by preparing yourself a nourishing salmon dinner or soaking up the glory that is Bristol Bay.