About The Bay
The Bristol Bay region in southwest Alaska is pristine wild country stretching from the rugged snow-capped peaks of the Alaska Range, accross tundra and wetlands laced with rivers that flow into the Bay, providing the best wild salmon habitat on Earth. The hour and a-half flight from Anchorage to Bristol Bay takes visitors on a breath-taking journey across two national parks (Katmai and Lake Clark), Alaska’s largest state park (Wood-Tikchick), three active volcanoes (Augustine, Iliamna and Redoubt), Lake Iliamna (Alaska’s largest lake) and countless winding rivers and tundra lakes. Bristol Bay and its watershed are truly inspiring for their beauty and bounty of fish and wildlife.
As wild salmon disappear around the globe, Bristol Bay continues to produce the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries and one of the largest king salmon runs. The reason for this is clear; the Bay’s freshwater salmon habitat is largely untouched by development. However, the bay is under threat from foreign mining corporations that want to turn the watershed into an industrial mining district. North America’s largest open-pit mine is proposed for an area that straddles two of the bay’s most important salmon streams. If plans for the Pebble Mine are allowed to proceed, they risk destroying a $360 million commercial and sport salmon fishery that celebrates its 125th year in 2009.
The Importance of Salmon
Healthy salmon runs underpin the Bristol Bay region’s economic, social, cultural and ecological well-being. Local communities, jobs, and the health of the entire region, from grizzlies on down the food chain, depend on these fish. The salmon sustain both thriving commercial and sport fishing industries as well as traditional subsistence ways of life. If the Pebble mine is developed, hundreds of sports fishing lodges are under threat as well as the world’s largest wild commercial sockeye salmon fishery and the subsistence culture of thousands of Alaska Natives and non-Natives who live in the Bristol Bay region.
The Pebble deposit is a massive storehouse of gold, copper and molybdemum, located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. If built, Pebble would be one of the largest mines of its type in the world. The Pebble Limited Partnership is comprised of the world’s second largest multinational mining corporation, London-based Anglo American, along with Northern Dynasty, a junior mining company headquartered in Canada. The Pebble Limited Partnership has not released its final mine plans but company executives have said that the Pebble Mine complex, which would cover some 15 square miles, would include the largest dam in the world (larger than Three Gorges Dam in China). Located in a seismically active area, the massive earthen dam would be designed to contain the toxic waste created in the mining process. But whether is could withstand a major earthquake is questionable. Over its lifetime, Pebble will produce 2.5 billion tons of waste that would have to be treated in perpetuity. Any release of this waste into the surface or groundwater has the potential to destroy Bristol Bays salmon runs forever.
Our Public Lands in the Bay
One million acres of prime wildlife and salmon habitat adjacent to the proposed pebble mine site could opened to new mining claims with the stroke of a pen. Closed to mining since 1971, these wild Alaska lands are integral to Bristol Bay’s salmon-supporting habitat that is anchored by miles of untamed rivers and wild country. A recommendation from the Bureau of Land Management to lift this mineral closure and create a modern day gold rush was issued in the last days of the Bush Administration. The cumulative impacts from increased development in the area overtime could devastate the fishery.
Protect Bristol Bay
With wild salmon runs disappearing from the planet, Bristol Bay is a place of international importance because of its prolific wild salmon runs and the economies they support. It faces imminent threat from the proposed Pebble mine as well as hard rock mining on adjacent state and federal land. The Bristol Bay watershed must be protected from Pebble and other large-scale mining projects.
EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment
On May 18, 2012, the EPA released its draft Watershed Assessment of Bristol Bay. This 339-page scientific report -- more than a year in the making -- concludes that even without a major accident or catastrophe, a mine the size of the Pebble deposit will eliminate or block up to 87 miles of salmon streams and remove or bury up to 4200 acres of wetlands that are part of salmon habitat.
At minimum size, mining the Pebble deposit would create a more than 1300 acre mine pit, a 3600 acre tailings compound behind a 685-foot high earthen dam and another 2300 acre waste rock pile.
Other key findings from the assessment include:
• Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery and other natural resources provide at least 14,000 full and part-time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually.
• The average annual run of sockeye salmon is about 37.5 million fish.
• EPA evaluated four types of large-scale mine failures, and found that even though precise estimates of failure probabilities cannot be made, evidence from other large mines suggest that “at least one or more accidents of failures could occur, potentially resulting in immediate, severe impacts on salmon and detrimental, long-term impacts on salmon habitat.”
Stop Pebble Mine
Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed is a complex system of rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands that support the most productive wild sockeye salmon fishery in the world. To protect the salmon, Sportsmen, Alaska tribes, native corporations and commercial fishermen and others have petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to restrict or prohibit the disposal of mine waste in Bristol Bay's pristine waters, including wetlands.
WHAT IS SECTION 404C OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT?
Section 404(c) authorizes EPA, after public hearings, and a science review process, to protect rivers and wetlands that are important to for fish spawning and wildlife habitat. There are some places that are too important to risk with toxic mine waste and the Clean Water Act allows us to keep those places pristine.
WHY IS IT NEEDED?
The proposed Pebble Mine will generate up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that will have to be treated for hundreds of years. Mine waste disposal in the Bristol Bay watershed is a direct threat to the tremendous wild salmon habitat that supports the Bristol Bay fishery, and supplies the world with a healthy and sustainable source of wild salmon. The salmon fishery is the economic engine of the region, generating an estimated $450 million in revenue each year, and supplying some 10,000 jobs.
WHAT IS THE TIMELINE?
In February 2011, the EPA announced it has initiated a watershed assessment to evaluate the suitability of large-scale mining in Bristol Bay. The results of this study will form the basis of an EPA decision on whether to initiate the 404c process.
"The Bristol Bay watershed is essential to the health,environment and economy of Alaska."
-- EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran.
-- EPA Regional Administrator Dennis McLerran.
WHO HAS ASKED THE EPA TO INITIATE THE 404C PROCESS?
9 Bristol Bay Tribes, The Bristol Bay Native Corporation (a multi-billion dollar developer and the largest land-owner in the Bristol Bay region representing 8,700 native shareholders), Bristol Bay Native Association (a non-profit corporation and tribal consortium serving the 31 federally recognized tribes in the Bristol Bay region), Commercial fishing interests represented by Alaska Independent Fishermen’s Marketing Association and Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, The National Council of Churches, 355 Sportfishing and hunting organizations from Alaska to Washington DC and over 200 Chefs and restaurant owners.
ITS TIME TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THE LIST. Take action today and tell the EPA its time
to Stop Pebble Mine. Click here to send a letter to your elected officials.