Photo: A view of Upper Talarik Creek which flows into Lake Iliamna in the Kvichak River watershed. These wetlands are at risk of environmental disaster if the Pebble Mine is approved. Photo by EPA.
The Pebble Mine threatens salmon country with toxic mine pollution.
The scenic Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska supports one of the largest salmon fisheries in the world, but it is under threat from a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine that would destroy its natural bounty.
If developed, Pebble Mine would be one of the largest open-pit mines in the world, creating up to 10 billion tons of toxic mining waste. Its proposed location at the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers and the Bristol Bay watershed could be devastating for the region's ecosytem, which provides some of the largest salmon runs in the world.
Photo: Bristol Bay region, by Todd Radenbaugh, flickr.
Map: Bristol Bay watershed area and the proposed Pebble Mine
What's at stake in Bristol Bay:
A world-class salmon fishery
Livelihoods supported by commercial and sport fishing
Thousands of acres of wetland habitat
Bristol Bay is the home of the world's greatest sockeye salmon habitat and some of the world's richest salmon producing streams--which support commercial and sport fishing. The Bristol Bay ecosystem generated $480 million in economic activity in 2009. It provided employment for over 14,000 workers.
In addition to supporting all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America, the region is home to more than 20 other fish species, 190 bird species, and 40 species of mammals. All of this is at risk if the Pebble Mine is built.
The EPA estimates that standard operations at the proposed Pebble Mine could destroy or negatively affect wetlands and habitats throughout the Bristol Bay watershed, inclulding:
Destruction of: 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes in the Bristol Bay Watershed
Negative impacts to: 33 miles of pristine, salmon-supporting streams.
Photos: Left: Sockeye salmon, by EPA. Right: Fisherman at work in Bristol Bay, by Chris Ford Photography, flickr.
Threat: Toxic waste and environmental destruction
The Pebble Mine threatens to pollute the bay and the Bristol Bay area’s highly productive salmon runs with toxic mine waste. The mine itself would be larger than Utah's massive Bingham Canyon copper and gold mine--one of the largest open-pit mines in the world (pictured at left).
The EPA's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, an exhaustive EPA study of the potential impacts of a mine, concluded that a mine would pose significant threats to the ecosystem and the communities that depend on it.
"Over three years, the EPA compiled the best, most current science on the Bristol Bay watershed to understand how large-scale mining could impact salmon and water in this unique area of unparalleled natural resources," said Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10. "Our report concludes that large-scale mining poses risks to salmon and the tribal communities that have depended on them for thousands of years.”
On August 5, a dam broke at a similar mine in British Columbia, spilling at least 5 million cubic meters of toxic waste into the watershed below. A mine at Bristol Bay would put the area at risk of similar environmental catastrophes.
Photo: The Bingham Canyon Copper and Gold Mine in Utah is one of the largest open-pit mines in the world. Pebble Mine would be significantly larger. Photo by Tolka Rover, flickr.
It’s believed that the Environmental Protection Agency may be close to stopping the proposed Pebble Mine. We want to make sure they do the right thing and put an end to this long-running proposal that has threatened the Bristol Bay area for years.
The EPA is currently taking public comments from people who care about Alaska’s wildlife, American jobs and salmon-rich watersheds. You can help by letting them know you support efforts to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska, from the proposed Pebble Mine, and by encouraging the EPA to move forward with a Final Determination under the Clean Water Act to finalize restrictions to prevent dangerous development within the Bristol Bay Watershed.