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Industry delight as Bristol Bay mining proposal is blocked


The sportfishing industry in the US is celebrating the news that a crucial 20-year campaign has saved one of the world’s premier salmon fisheries from a huge mining project.

To the delight of conservationists, local tribes, other industries and anglers across North America, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has used its rare authority under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to block the proposed mining of massive gold and copper deposits in Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan told reporters yesterday that the agency’s Final Determination under the CWA bans waters in the South Fork Koktuli River and North Fork Koktuli River watersheds from being used as disposal sites for material tied to the proposed Pebble Mine plan.

“In 50 years since the passing of the CWA, the EPA has used this authority sparingly,” said Regan. “This action marks only the third time in 30 years that we have used the authority and it underscores the true, irreplaceable and invaluable natural wonder that is Bristol Bay.

Regan added that the Final Determination, long-sought by Alaskan tribes and environmental groups, is similar to an official recommendation the EPA Region 10 office made last year to prohibit the mine. It concluded that the project would permanently destroy more than 2,000 acres of wetlands and other federally protected waters.

Scott Hed, Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska, has worked tirelessly over the last two decades mobilising opposition to the mining project. He told Angling International: “Today is time for a celebration. It has been a long time coming.

“This is the end of the immediate threat from Pebble Mine. The CWA is an extremely durable tool that has only been used in rare circumstances and past issues of Section 404c have never been overturned.

“I would like to thank the EPA and the Biden Administration for following through on their desire to keep the area protected. We also could have not done this without the amazing support from so many different and diverse organisations, including the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and brands within the industry.”

Last month Pebble slammed the impending decision, saying it was based on ‘indefensible legal and non-scientific assumptions’.

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