The battle to save what has been described as the world’s foremost salmon fishery – upon which thousands of fishing tackle industry jobs depend – from a massive mining development, has taken a dramatic and unexpected twist.
The US Army Corps of Engineers, the body that is responsible for advising upon the fate of Bristol Bay, Alaska, has told the Pebble Limited Partnership, the developer of the mine, it must outline its plans on how it will address the proposed damage to the neighbouring wetlands and waterways.
In the next 90 days the company must show how it will compensate for harming more than 2,800 acres of wetlands, 130 miles of streams and more than 130 acres of open water within Alaska’s Koktuli River Watershed.
The surprise development has been welcomed by the fishing tackle industry in the US, including the country’s trade representative body, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). Mike Leonard, its Vice President of Government Affairs, said: “We are very happy to see the Army Corps take this action.”
“As the voice of the sportfishing industry, the ASA has been opposed to the Pebble Mine since it was first proposed over a decade ago. The devastation it would have on the eco-system and the region’s economy, which is heavily dependent on Bristol Bay’s fisheries, is simply too great.”
Chad Tokowicz, the ASA’s Inland Fisheries Manager, described the Army Corps decision as a ‘pivotal’ moment in the fight against the Pebble Mine. “By denying the current proposal, the Army Corps has acknowledged what ASA and many other outdoor recreation groups have been saying for years – the Pebble Mine is simply the wrong mine in the wrong place.
“While the fight is not completely over, we are glad that the Army Corps has brought to light the insurmountable risks the mine poses, creating a significant barrier to the project moving forward.
“The decision is a step in the right direction, but does not guarantee Bristol Bay’s future. We must not lose sight of our end goal, which is putting an end to the Pebble Mine once and for all. Only a veto from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can stop the Pebble Mine.
“We would not be where we are today if it weren’t for our industry members lending their voices to this issue. I encourage everyone to send a message to the EPA telling them to veto the Pebble Mine.”