3 things to know about Pebble mine

  1. Alaskans have been consistently – and overwhelmingly – opposed to Pebble mine

56% of Alaskans oppose the proposed Pebble mine project according to a statewide survey of 800 registered voters conducted from February 5-12, 2024. These numbers are consistent with polling dating back to at least 2013; opposition to the mine has never dipped below 51%, and support has never risen above 37%. In 2014, two-thirds of the state backed a ballot measure that requires legislative approval for large-scale mining in Bristol Bay. More than 75% of BBNC shareholders oppose Pebble, based on a 2019 survey of more than 4,000 shareholders.

  1. Pebble was rejected by Donald Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers and Joe Biden’s EPA

In November 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the key federal permit needed for Pebble to move forward. In January 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency used its Clean Water Act authority to effectively block large-scale mining, like the proposed Pebble project, in certain waters of the Bristol Bay watershed. It was only the 14th such action in the 50-plus-year history of the Clean Water Act. Republicans and Democrats from across the country have come out in strong opposition to Pebble mine.

  1. Some of the largest mining companies in the world have abandoned Pebble mine

In 2013, Anglo American abandoned its stake in Pebble mine after investing more than $500 million in the project. Rio Tinto made a similar decision a year later when it gave away its shares in the Pebble Limited Partnership. Mitsubishi and First Quantum Minerals also backed out of Pebble after previously investing in the mine.

Latest News

On Monday, January 8, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the State of Alaska’s petition asking the Court to invoke its original jurisdiction to hear the State’s legal challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to block a potential Clean Water Act permit for the Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) 2020 mining plan proposal. The Supreme Court’s decision means that any challenge to EPA’s actions must go through the federal trial and appellate courts before potentially reaching the Supreme Court. It was the latest in a series of losses and rejections for PLP and the State of Alaska.

As BBNC President and CEO Jason Metrokin said after the Supreme Court’s decision, “EPA’s decision to protect Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble Mine is grounded in decades of science, public support, and legal authority. Nevertheless, we know there is still uncertainty about the watershed’s future. Our elected officials should listen to the majority of Alaskans who want to see Bristol Bay protected and work on legislation for the region.”

Why BBNC Opposes Pebble Mine

Since 2009, Bristol Bay Native Corporation has formally opposed the proposed Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers in Bristol Bay, Alaska. These rivers support the prolific salmon runs in Bristol Bay, which produce tens of millions of sockeye salmon every year and support a billion-dollar commercial fishing industry, 14,000 fishing jobs, a robust sportfishing and tourism economy, and our Alaska Native way of life. The gold and copper mine, which, if fully developed, would produce billions of tons of waste rock stored in perpetuity behind a massive earthen dam, would threaten all that Bristol Bay holds dear. Our views on Pebble mine are based on our “fish first” value – and the opinions of the vast majority of our over 11,000 Alaska Native shareholders.

We are opposed to the Pebble mine because science has proven it will have unacceptable, adverse impacts to Bristol Bay’s watershed. EPA estimated Pebble’s mine plan could destroy over 2,100 acres of pristine wetlands and nearly 100 miles of streams at the mine site alone. That’s based on a plan that would mine less than 13% of the ore body located at Pebble. Top executives at PLP and parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals (NDM) acknowledge that the mine will be much larger and potentially in operation for 180 years or longer.

Though it took the better part of two decades to achieve protections for Bristol Bay, the Army Corps of Engineers’ rejection of Pebble’s federal permit and EPA’s Final Determination are grounded in science, the law, and the overwhelming support of the people of Bristol Bay. Our late Republican Senator Ted Stevens’ words still ring true: “Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.”

EPA Uses Clean Water Act to Block Key Pebble Mine Permit

In January 2023, EPA issued a Final Determination under its Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authority that effectively blocked mining on the scale of Pebble in certain waters of the Bristol Bay watershed. It was only the 14th such action in the 50-plus-year history of the Clean Water Act. The Final Determination was based on an extensive scientific review of the Bristol Bay watershed and potential impacts of largescale hardrock mining, as well as multiple public comment periods that took in the views of tens of thousands of Alaskans and millions of Americans.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said: “The Bristol Bay watershed is a vital economic driver, providing jobs, sustenance, and significant ecological and cultural value to the region. With this action, EPA is advancing its commitment to help protect this one-of-a-kind ecosystem, safeguard an essential Alaskan industry, and preserve the way of life for more than two dozen Alaska Native villages.”

At a May 2023 reception at the White House Rose Garden attended by Alaskans and others who have worked to protect Bristol Bay, President Biden said: “Bristol Bay is an extraordinary place, unlike anywhere in the world. Six rivers meet there, traveling through 40,000 miles of tundra, wetlands and lakes, collecting freshwater and salmon along the way … making this the largest sockeye salmon fishery on all the earth.”

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act Permit Decision

In 2020, during the final weeks of the Trump Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers rejected Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) application for a Clean Water Act Section 404 dredge and fill permit. This permit is the key federal permit needed for the mine to go forward. Despite the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being on the conservative side, the Record of Decision (ROD) was more than justified based on the enormous anticipated loss of vital salmon habitat.

Despite sound science and bipartisan rejection, the PLP appealed the ROD. The Corps’ Pacific Ocean Division remanded the permit back to the Alaska district for further review. The Alaska District is now revisiting the 2020 Record of Decision (ROD) in which it denied the PLP’s application for a Clean Water Act permit. This remand is a separate process from and does not impact EPA’s Clean Water Act decision in Bristol Bay.

We will update this page with additional information when the Alaska District completes this review and issue a new or revised ROD or takes other steps.

Pedro Bay Conservation Easement

In December 2022, Pedro Bay Corporation executed conservation easements with the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust on 44,000 acres of its lands along the northeast shore of Iliamna Lake. The easements will complicate PLP or future developers’ efforts to utilize the lands for use as a transportation corridor from the mine site to Cook Inlet. The deals also protect subsistence access to these lands for Pedro Bay Corporation shareholders and provide the corporation with revenues from the lands.

To read more about the 2022 Pedro Bay Conservation Easements click here.

Despite Recent Victories, Bristol Bay Needs Durable Long-Term Solutions

While the current iteration of Pebble was rejected by multiple agencies across administrations of both parties, PLP and the threat of large-scale, open-pit mining in Bristol Bay are not going away. As long as there is a need for copper or gold, powerful interests will want to mine those minerals from the Pebble deposit. That’s why Bristol Bay needs additional legislative measures.

BBNC, along with in-region and Alaska stakeholders, is currently working with the Alaska congressional delegation and other allies in Congress from both parties to advance a solution that both protects Bristol Bay and its salmon resource while funding sustainable economic opportunities for the region. BBNC is committed to pursuing this path because Bristol Bay deserves a durable solution to Pebble and new economic opportunities for our people.

Alaskans Oppose Pebble Mine

In a state known for its support of resource development, Alaskans have consistently opposed Pebble mine. BBNC’s own recent polling found that 57% of registered voters in Alaska oppose Pebble mine, with a majority of Alaskans opposing the mine dating back to at least 2013. The mine is also opposed by 76% of BBNC shareholders, with majorities opposing the mine in every part of the Bristol Bay region, including communities closest to the mine site.

 

Moreover, since 2012, more than four million comments have been submitted to EPA and other federal agencies expressing opposition to Pebble mine. The vast majority of comments from Alaskans have been in opposition. The depth and breadth of this coalition is unprecedented for a major resource development project.

 

Alaskans and residents in the lower 48 understand the importance of one of the world’s largest, and last, commercial sockeye salmon runs. Pebble has had over ten years to gain the public’s trust and continues to spend untold funds to gain support of Alaskans. But Alaskans aren’t buying what Pebble is selling.

Alaska’s Congressional Delegation Opposes Pebble Mine

In September of 2019, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (at the time, Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee) included language in an appropriations bill report that expressed concerns with the permitting process and encouraged a permit denial if the concerns aren’t met.

Both Senator Murkowski and Senator Dan Sullivan supported the Army Corps’ August 2020 conclusion that the mine could not be permitted as proposed. Senator Murkowski said, “I agree that a permit should not be issued.” Senator Sullivan said, “I support this conclusion – based on the best available science and a rigorous, fair process – that a federal permit cannot be issued.”

The Senators reiterated their opposition during the Bristol Bay Voices Panel held during the 2020 Bristol Bay Wild Salmon Celebration.

“After this very rigorous, very thorough process, the [Army Corps of Engineers] has found that the Pebble project as currently proposed does not meet that high bar. And I have said, if you don’t meet the high bar, then a permit should not be issued,” said Senator Murkowski.

“We know we have an incredible resource in the region already, which is the salmon resource, so you can’t trade one resource for another…we had to make sure that the agencies, and the federal government, the White House, everybody was listening to Alaskans,” said Senator Sullivan. Later, Senator Sullivan further reiterated his opposition, stating “I oppose Pebble Mine. No Pebble Mine.

When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Final Determination, Representative Mary Peltola stated, “Rebuilding our salmon runs and protecting our fish was the number one reason I decided to run for Congress… Protecting Bristol Bay, and the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, has been a bipartisan effort from the very beginning. After decades of regulatory uncertainty, I hope that this ruling gives the people who live and work in Bristol Bay the stability and peace of mind they deserve and the confidence that this incredible salmon run will no longer be threatened.” Rep. Peltola later praised the Supreme Court decision, saying “This decision is an important win for the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery and the people it feeds.”

What’s Next for Pebble Mine?

Despite multiple losses in federal agencies and courts, PLP shows no signs of folding. The company and the state of Alaska have both indicated they plan to pursue legal claims through the federal trial courts. What’s more, PLP’s parent company – Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals – continues to raise money even though its stock remains near all-time lows. The appeal of the Army Corps’ permit denial has yet to be resolved.

Still, Pebble faces multiple challenges that will be difficult to overcome – its compensatory mitigation plan, water treatment and storage, land ownership concerns, impact on anadromous fish species, and tailings and dam design, to name just a few. Pebble mine is, and will always be, the wrong mine in the wrong place. BBNC and regional stakeholders will continue to oppose Pebble mine while working towards solutions that both protect Bristol Bay and secure its future.

Additional Resources