“Perhaps it was God who put these two great resources right next to each other, just to see what people would do with them.”
John Shively, chief executive of Pebble Limited Partnership
Bristol Bay, southwest Alaska’s 23-million acre watershed, supports the largest, most diverse, and sustainably managed wild salmon ecosystem on the planet. Brown bears jockey for prime fishing spots on Katmai National Park’s Brooks River waterfalls while breathless tourists armed with high-powered cameras capture every moment from nearby viewing platforms. Lake Clark National Park’s pristine waters welcome 1.5 – 6 million wild sockeye salmon each summer as dedicated park staff take pride in achieving the park’s primary purpose: to protect a portion of the Bristol Bay watershed for the perpetuation of the sockeye salmon fishery. These prized wild salmon are known as Red Gold.
Unfortunately, massive deposits of copper, gold, and molybdenum have been discovered on lands adjacent to Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. View the maps listed in the sidebar. Valued at $350-500 billion, the Pebble Mine deposit lies buried 2,000 to 6,000 feet deep in Bristol Bay’s pristine headwaters. About 1,000 square miles of mining claims have been staked around the Pebble site, including some in the Chulitna River watershed, the park’s largest freshwater tributary. International mining companies are eager to unearth the remote riches, but it’s not easy. Just to get started, they’ll need more than 100 miles of roads and pipelines, tons of power, and a pollution-free plan to carve the minerals from the type of rocks known to cause acid mine drainage. Opposition to a future mining district is intense as residents and stakeholders weigh the potential ecological risks and dismal track record of similar mining operations.
“I can’t imagine a worse place for a mine of this type unless it was right in my kitchen.”
Jay Hammond, former Governor of Alaska, from his homestead on Lake Clark.
NPCA’s Center for Park Research team found that, “if built, the proposed Pebble Mine could become the largest mining project in Alaska, the largest open-pit mine in North America, and a catalyst of industrialization in the headwaters of one of the last remaining wild sockeye salmon fisheries on Earth… Predicted mining impacts at Lake Clark park include degraded air and water quality (with associated impacts on fisheries), habitat disturbance and displacement of wildlife and birds, increased competition for subsistence and/or sport resources from new residents and mine workers, and diminishment of the visitor experience (due to a loss of wilderness character).” Read our report.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is studying the Bristol Bay watershed to examine the impacts industrial mining could have on the region’s water quality and the salmon fishery. The report will guide the agency’s future actions to protect our clean waters and wild salmon, and promote sustainable resource development in Bristol Bay.