Gold versus Salmon: Alaska’s Pebble Mine Problem

A few weeks ago, we offered a short overview of how watersheds in the Pacific Northwest affect salmon health, and how salmon health affects the health of the planet and everyone who lives here. A related story is now playing out in southwest Alaska with stakes that are equally high.

Sockeye salmon runs that flow in and around the headwaters of Bristol Bay feed the grizzly bears, wolves and eagles of Katimai National Park, but they also supply half of all human demand for salmon around the world. Over 60 million salmon enter the bay in the spring, and more than 30 million of these are caught, packaged, and distributed to stores and restaurants in every corner of the globe, providing both jobs and food for Alaskans who occupy the starting point of the chain.  

Salmon represent figurative gold to the people of Bristol Bay, and by extension, to the ecosystem, the health of the planet, and the thread of the global economy that follows the fate of seafood production in the Pacific Northwest. For all of these reasons, the people of Alaska and the Obama administration rejected a recent proposal by Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian Company that wanted to detonate an area of the headwaters the size of Manhattan in order to mine for the literal gold believed to lie beneath.

Unfortunately, the permits denied by the previous administration and denounced by even the most pro-mining politicians in Alaska have now been granted by the current head of the EPA.

Environmental and economic destruction in the area are expected to be catastrophic if the mine project proceeds, but there are still ways we can intervene—from supporting the Bristol Bay salmon industry to contacting Alaska state representatives and registering opposition to the project.

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Here at Just Atonement, we can also stand ready, as we always do, to offer legal recourse for those who live in the path of these destructive events. All of us will feel the impact if Northern Dynasty is permitted to pursue its intentions in Bristol Bay, but those standing closest to the fault line—including Alaskans and Indigenous people who depend on salmon, sportfishing, and the tourism industry—will be the first to suffer the effects.

To catch up on the events of Bristol Bay which have been unfolding since May of 2017, click here, here and here. For ways to take action, click here. Meanwhile, contact our office to learn more.