Bristol Bay, Alaska, is a wild, largely unspoiled eco-system. Over a half a million square miles of rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands support the largest remaining wild salmon populations and habitat on Earth. Millions of salmon return to their spawning grounds in the pristine waters of the bay each year. In turn, the salmon nourish the ecosystem and support a sustainable human economy that provides 14,000 full and part time jobs and is valued at about $480 million annually. The Native peoples of the region depend on the salmon for sustenance and during the annual salmon run fill their freezers and smokehouses for the coming year.
|EPA Photos from watershed assessment to understand how large-scale mining would impact water quality and habitat in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska via USEPAGOV on Flickr.
The Bay teems with wildlife: bears, wolves, waterfowl, caribou, raptors and migratory birds create a rich diversity. This is a region where for generations humans have threaded lightly and live in balance with nature.
Update - Progress to protect the bay!
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a proposal to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska from one of the world’s largest proposed copper mines. This proposed rule comes as the result for an incredible amount of advocacy by faith, environment, and Native advocates and signals the EPA's recognition that Pebble Mine cannot function in Bristol Bay without irreparable harm to this piece of God's earth.
In order to protect the Bristol Bay ecosystem and surrounding community's we must urge the EPA to finalize and implement this rule. You can take action through our partners at Creation Justice Ministries - Send a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy urging her to finalize this rule.
What is Pebble Mine?
Pebble Mine is a proposed mineral exploration project of massive scale. The project would mine gold, copper and other metals located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. Pebble mine would be one of the largest mines in the world. Its developers are a consortium of the world’s second largest multi-national mining corporation, London based Anglo-American and a Canadian mining company, Northern Dynasty.
In order to mine billions of tons of raw ore from the earth, an enormous open pit, two miles across and 2,000 feet deep, would be gouged into the ground. The billions of tons of mine waste would be dumped into man-made lakes created by flooding 10 square miles of land behind earthen dams more than 600 feet high. The site of these lakes is an active earthquake zone.
The environmental risks of this project are enormous, but equally important are the devastating repercussions the mine will have on the indigenous peoples of Bristol Bay, who have lived on these lands for generations and depend on the bay’s salmon for their survival. The practice of intentionally selecting communities of color for wastes disposal sites and polluting industrial facilities – essentially condemning them to contamination – is known as “environmental racism.” The United Church of Christ has historically been a champion for environmental justice across the nation and it is essential that we join with our native sisters and brothers in speaking out about the very real impact this project will have on their lives and communities.
Much of the information featured here comes from partners on the ground. For more information visit Save Bristol Bay and the Alaska Conservation Foundation.
Watch Frontline's documentary on Bristol Bay - Alaska Gold. It can be viewed for free online.