Pebble Mine

Current Status and Next Steps in EPA’s 404(c) Process

EPA Region 10 announced its Recommended Determination on December 1, 2022 and is expected to release a Final Determination by January 30, 2023. When completed, the Final Determination will protect the Bristol Bay watershed from the proposed Pebble mine and future large-scale hard rock mining of the Pebble deposit.

To read more about the 2022 Proposed Determination and EPA’s progress towards a Final Action, click here.

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.

After Permit Denial, Bristol Bay Still Needs Durable, Long-Term Solutions

In November 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the key federal permit for Pebble mine. While this was unquestionably good news, it is not the end of the fight over Pebble mine.

While the current iteration of Pebble was rejected, the Pebble Limited Partnership (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 is working with Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, allies in Congress from both parties, and other regional stakeholders to advance a solution that both protects Bristol Bay and its salmon resource while funding sustainable economic opportunities for southwest Alaska. BBNC is committed to pursuing this path because our region deserves a durable solution to Pebble and new economic opportunities for our people.

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 would produce billions of tons of wasterock 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 10,300 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. Even the conservative and incomplete Final Environmental Impact Statement (Final EIS) for the mine plan estimates that Pebble could destroy over 3,000 acres of pristine wetlands and 105 miles of streams, while mining less than 13% of the ore body located at Pebble. Top executives at Pebble Limited Partnership (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.

Our late Republican Senator Ted Stevens’ words still ring true: “Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.”

Our Leadership’s Views

“In order to best protect the land of Bristol Bay and the way of life for current and future generations of BBNC shareholders, BBNC must do its part to protect the sustainable natural resources of our region. Development of the Pebble mine would threaten the Bristol Bay fishery and the world-class salmon run which has served as the heart of our subsistence lifestyle, supporting our people for generations. BBNC’s firm opposition to Pebble is consistent with the values of cultural and economic sustainability to which we hold ourselves.” – Joe Chythlook, Past BBNC Chairman

“BBNC does not otherwise oppose mining development. Pebble mine is simply different. In any configuration, the mine is too big and will be located in too important of a location. It poses unacceptable risks to the salmon resource and consequently, the subsistence lifestyle and economic interests of our shareholders.” – Jason Metrokin, BBNC President & CEO

Alaskans Oppose Pebble Mine

In a state known for its support of resource development, Alaskans have consistently opposed Pebble mine. Most recently, a survey of likely November 2020 voters taken in June 2020 shows Alaskans oppose the mine by a 2-1 margin (62% to 31%). BBNC’s own polling has shown similar results, with a majority of Alaskans opposing the mine dating back to at least 2012. 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, over 2.5 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 Weighs In

In September of 2019, Alaska Senator and Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski 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.

And even more recently, Senator Murkowski reiterated her opposition to Pebble at the 2020 Alaska Federation of Natives Annual Convention stating, “I have been clear throughout that I oppose the project. I recognize the need for new economic development in Southwest Alaska. I think we all do. But I simply think this is the wrong mine in the wrong place.” Watch the video of her entire AFN statement on Pebble below.

As a candidate, now-Representative Mary Peltola said in an Alaska Public Radio Network questionnaire, “I unequivocally oppose development of the Pebble mine.”

What’s Next for Pebble Mine?

PLP is currently appealing the Section 404 permit denial to the Corps’ Pacific Ocean Division. In May 2021, the Corps said it could take at least a year to review the appeal. The appeal is still pending as of January 2023.

Regardless of the fate of PLP’s appeal, the proposed Pebble mine is rife with problems – from 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.

Additional Resources

Analysis of Permitting Documents

BBNC Comments on the 2022 Proposed Determination

Other Resources