To the relief of millions of Americans, the Army Corps of Engineers blocked approval of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska on Wednesday, which could end a decades-long battle for the health of a major salmon fishery.
The agency concluded that “the proposed project is contrary to the public interest” and blocked the approval of the mine under the Clean Water Law and the Rivers and Ports Law.
The debate over the Pebble mine with its huge copper and gold reserves located near Bristol Bay in southern Alaska has been ongoing since feasibility studies were conducted in 2008. The mine has come to almost personify the struggle. of environmentalists to protect ecosystems against the will of the federal government.
Environmentalists, sportsmen, fishing industry unions and their lobbyists have repeatedly warned that the vastness of the mine would devastate Bristol Bay and Bristol River salmon.
Containing the world’s largest salmon and the world’s largest sockeye fishery, the five species of Pacific salmon frequent Bristol Bay and its eight tributary rivers. Along with herring, these stocks count for 75% of local jobs, more than $ 200 million annually in revenue, and 40% of the country’s total salmon catch.
The mine likely would have been as deep as the Grand Canyon, providing access to the world’s most valuable undeveloped copper resource, but mining the metal could have produced enough waste to fill an NFL stadium nearly 3,900 times, according to the Associated Press.
“The Corps’ denial of a permit for the Pebble Mine is a victory for common sense,” said Chris Wood, president of Trout Unlimited. “Opposition to this project from all corners of the political spectrum is strong and deep. The process has developed and the science is clear. There is no way this ill-conceived project can coexist with Bristol Bay salmon, “the group said, according to the nonprofit. Save Bristol Bay.
A close call
The Army Corps of Engineers released an environmental report in July that said the mine and fisheries could coexist, stating that under normal working conditions, the mine “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in on long-term changes in the health of commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay. “
Interestingly, just a month later, the agency he found that discharges at the mine would result in “unavoidable adverse impacts to aquatic resources,” and presented a checklist of steps necessary to mitigate this process.
However, the request was ultimately denied, even though the mine contains 6.44 billion tons of precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium, and valuable minerals such as copper and molybdenum.
Donald Trump Jr. noted earlier this year that he expected his father to reject the mining request, saying that “as an athlete who has spent a lot of time in the area, I agree 100%. The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to risk.
Other Republicans, like the two Republican Senators from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and Dan Sullivan, agreed that Pebble Mine is better off without building.
“It will help ensure the continued protection of an irreplaceable resource: Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon fishery,” Murkowski said, according to AP.
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