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Know the West

Latest: Settlement resurrects Alaska’s Pebble Mine

Sen. Lisa Murkowski says the project must pass muster for salmon.


Southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay hosts the largest sockeye salmon run in the world, supporting substantial fisheries and cultural traditions. The proposed Pebble Mine would extract gold, copper and molybdenum from the bay’s headwaters, but the resulting habitat destruction and potential spills of toxic mine waste could devastate salmon (“Worst place for a major mine?HCN, 11/25/13). In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed restricting mining within the watershed, citing environmental risks; that prompted mining company Pebble Limited Partnership to sue the agency. 

In May, President Trump’s EPA settled the suits, reversing Obama-era efforts to prevent development. Parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals plans to apply for a federal mining permit, a process that will likely take years. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R, supports allowing permitting to proceed, but stressed the importance of salmon: “If the company can’t prove the mine will be safe,” a spokeswoman told the Alaska Dispatch News, “the mine shouldn’t be built.”