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EPA to Protect World's Largest Wild Salmon Fishery from Pebble Mine

Lucy Towers
03 March 2014, at 12:00am

US - The US Environmental Protection Agency is invoking its Clean Water Act authority to assess permanently prohibiting or restricting mine waste disposal into Alaskas Bristol Bay watershed. This decision puts on hold attempts to build the Pebble Mine, which would be North Americas largest open pit gold-copper mine.

"We are happy with the EPA's decision to take this crucial step," said Kimberly Williams, director of Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of ten Bristol Bay Native Tribes and Native Village corporations.. "I and more than 30 other Alaskan leaders just came back from Washington to urge the EPA to do so. Now we’re one big step closer to protecting our salmon, our resources and our people from the proposed Pebble mine."

EPA’s action is not a final decision to block the mine. But while the review occurs as authorised by section 404c of the Clean Water Act, the US Army Corps cannot take any steps to grant permits.

During the review, EPA will rely heavily upon its peer-reviewed scientific assessment of the impacts of large scale mining on the Bristol Bay watershed which was released in January.

“We're thrilled the EPA is taking this important step to protect the world's greatest wild salmon fishery, and the communities that depend on it,” said Earthworks executive director Jennifer Krill. She continued, “The decision is clear. The science is definitive. Some places just shouldn’t be mined, and the Bristol Bay watershed is one of them.”

An unusual coalition of Alaska Native communities, commercial fishermen, conservation groups, jewelry retail companies, churches, investors and recreational fishermen have united against the Pebble Mine proposal and for the protection of Bristol Bay watershed, its people and the 14,000 jobs that depend on its $480 million/year commercial fishery.

"Tiffany & Co. commends the EPA for its efforts to protect Bristol Bay and the 14,000 jobs that depend on a healthy, sustainable fishery," said Tiffany & Co. CEO Michael Kowalski.