Locals fighting an Alaskan wilderness mine
Anglo American promised it would not touch the pristine habitat of Bristol Bay without our blessing. It must honor its word. Among our Alaskan native tribes, a promise made is a promise kept. Such promises over the generations have kept our populations of wild sockeye salmon, which sustain our culture and feed our families, plentiful and healthy. And last year, Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of London-based mining giant Anglo American PLC, made a promise.
In a private meeting with Alaskans in London (including one of this piece's authors), Carroll promised her company would not build its proposed Pebble mine if local residents didn't support it.
The vast majority of Bristol Bay residents, joined by the Alaskan commercial and sport fishing industries, are strongly opposed to the proposed open-pit copper and gold mine project in the headwaters of the bay — spawning grounds for the largest and most valuable wild sockeye salmon on Earth. The Bristol Bay fishery supplies a third of the world's commercial supply. It is the lifeblood of many Alaska native communities and is critical to the state's economy, generating an average of $400m (£250m) a year and more than 5,500 jobs. The UK is the largest consumer of tinned sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, with $43m-worth (£27m) of salmon exported to the UK last year.
While Anglo American has yet to file a complete application with state regulators, presentations by the company and water rights applications make it clear that the mine will be the largest of its kind in North America, and one of the largest in the world. If built, it would alter this special place for ever. Such a major industrial development will destroy productive salmon habitat and leave behind 10 billion tonnes of toxic mining waste that would stay here for ever. The sulphides in the rock make water pollution a near certainty. Even minute increases in certain metals interfere with a salmon's ability to navigate upriver to spawn.