On the day before Thanksgiving, Alaskans woke to astounding news: the Army Corps rejected a major permit for the Pebble mine.
Never before had the Army Corps rejected a major permit for a large oil, gas or mining project in Alaska. Never.
And it only came about after years and years of relentless pressure from Alaskans who refused to give away the world’s richest salmon fishery to a junior Canadian mining corporation.
So, the question then becomes: is the Pebble mine dead?
The short answer is yes. In shooting-down Pebble’s mitigation plan on November 25, the Army Corps essentially issued a death sentence to the Pebble mine.
While Pebble can certainly appeal the Army Corps’ decision, it faces a steep uphill climb. For example, Pebble would have to overcome key Corps findings, including the fact it failed to provide basic information to support its mitigation plan. According to the Army Corps:
“The plan has been found noncompliant with nine specific requirements of rule to include:
(1) lack of detail to determine compensatory mitigation sufficiency,
(2) lack of information for preservation waiver,
(3) insufficient amount of compensatory mitigation,
(4) inadequate site protection,
(5) omission of a maintenance plan,
(6) omission of performance standards,
(7) omission of long term management plan,
(8) inadequate monitoring, and
(9) omission of financial assurances.”
These omissions and information gaps are not trivial. In fact, they support what Inletkeeper and its partners have been saying all along: the Pebble Partnership is ill-equipped to build and operate a massive open pit mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay in a safe and reliable fashion.
The next question then becomes, does the Army Corps decision on Pebble prevent large scale mining in the Bristol Bay watershed in the future? And the answer to that question is an unequivocal “no.”
Why? Because the mining claims lying within the subsurface of the Bristol Bay watershed remain valid, and any company which holds these claims could make a push to develop them at any time.
So, while it’s important to celebrate the Army Corps’ historic decision to reject the Pebble mine, it’s even more important to double down on this monumental victory and work to secure permanent protections for Bristol Bay salmon and the countless families and communities they support.
And that means extinguishing all mining claims in the region, and installing permanent safeguards that protect wild Alaska salmon habitat for generations to come.