Some 200 Alaskans gathered in the pouring rain in downtown Anchorage on August 21 to tell the Pebble Limited Partnership once again that Bristol Bay residents will not help build a mine not wanted in their region of Alaska. “It has been much more than just a decade of deception,” former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford told the crowd. “Pebble has been telling us things that weren’t true over and over again.
The source of contention is a proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine that commercial, sport and subsistence fish harvesters, major environmental groups and others contend has the potential to destroy fish habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed.
“They know they don’t have local support,” Halford said. “The fact is that salmon are life to Bristol Bay. They feed everything from the tiniest microorganism to the brown bear. They feed the heart, the soul and the faith of everybody there. And they feed the dreams of people worldwide.”
Norm Van Vactor, chief executive officer of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. at Dillingham, described the mine project advocated by British Columbia’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, of which the PLP is a subsidiary, as “a cloud over Bristol Bay’s head for more than a decade. “Enough is enough,” Van Vactor said. “Bristol Bay has a robust economic engine that is sustainable –our fisheries. Just this year the commercial fishery harvested more than 37 million sockeyes.” That’s the economy we will fight to preserve.”
The mine opponents gathered outside the Hotel Captain Cook, where the PLP’s advisory committee planned to hold a private meeting about the mine.
PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole said several people from groups opposed to the mine were invited to the meeting to share their views but that they all declined.
Heatwole said the PLP is in the midst of active discussions with potential investors in the project and that it plans to begin filing for permits for the mine by year’s end. He acknowledged that approval of permits would be needed from more than 60 classifications, and that every stream crossing permit would need approval from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Heatwole also said that no final decision has been made on the gas fired electrical plant needed for the mine, but said the PLP planned to resolve that issue before submitting permit applications.