Washington — Wednesday’s Biden administration has taken significant legal action to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska, It is one of the most valuable sockeye salmon fisheries in the world and is also on the huge copper and gold deposits that mining companies have long coveted.
The Environmental Protection Agency, citing its authority under the Clean Water Act of 1972, has proposed a legal decision banning the disposal of mining waste in the Bristol Bay basin. According to scientists, this is a potentially deadly move to the proposed Pebble mine, a fierce controversy that not only extracts metal, but also irreparably damages the ecosystem. This is the project that became the target of.
Proposals for permanent conservation of water and wildlife in Bristol Bay, about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, will be finalized later this year.
This decision prohibits the disposal of mining-related waste within 308 square miles of the proposed Pebble mining project site. It’s about four times the area of Washington, DC, but it’s only part of the total 40,000 square miles of the Bristol Bay basin.
“The Bristol Bay basin is a brilliant example of how water in our country is essential to a healthy community, vibrant ecosystem and a thriving economy,” said the Environmental Protection Agency’s manager. One Michael S. Regan said. “The EPA is committed to following science, law, and transparent public processes to determine what is needed to protect this irreplaceable and valuable resource for current and future generations. increase.”
Blockade of the pebble mine will be a promise kept for President Biden, who promised to “listen to scientists and protect Bristol Bay” in the course of the campaign.
Biden praised the area as the foundation of Alaska Natives’ livelihoods, saying it was a valuable destination for anglers and half of the world’s sockeye salmon, “not a mining site.” ..
The battle for the fate of the Pebble Mine and Bristol Bay has been fierce for over a decade. The plan to mine Bristol Bay was terminated a few years ago under the Obama administration, after which he found a new life under President Trump. However, opposition from the Alaska Native community, environmentalists and fisheries has not diminished, and even Donald Trump Jr., the son of Mr. Trump and a sportsman who fished in the area, has arrived. Oppose the project.. The water is rich in cham, coho salmon, sockeye salmon and pink salmon.
2020, Army Corps of Engineers Rejected permission for the project It was seen as important for it to proceed.
The Pebble Limited Partnership, a company trying to build a mine, is expected to appeal its decision and challenge the legality of the Biden administration’s new plan to protect Bristol Bay.
“This is a major setback for the Biden administration’s climate change goals,” said John Sibley, Chief Executive Officer of the Pebble Limited Partnership, in a statement.
He called it “sarcastic” that President Biden enforced the Defense Production Act to shut down the Pebble mine while strengthening the mining and processing of minerals used in renewable energy and electric vehicle batteries. These so-called important minerals usually include nickel, lithium, cobalt, graphite and manganese. Copper is a major component of wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles, but is not listed as an important mineral in enforcement orders issued during the Byden or Trump administrations.
Mr. Sibley said his company is still appealing for a denial of permission from the Army Corps, calling the new EPA’s decision “a political conclusion that seeks to thwart our ability to work through its established process.” ..
The company wants to dig a one-third-deep open-pit mine more than a mile square and process tens of millions of tons of rock annually to extract metals estimated to be worth at least $ 300 billion. thinking about. The project will include the construction of a 270 MW power plant and a 165 mile natural gas pipeline, as well as an 82 mile road and a large dammed pond for the tail. You also need to dredge the harbor of Iliamna Volcano.
Both federal and state government agencies have proposed that the proposed pebble mines in the two watersheds that water the rivers that spawn fish cause permanent damage and are the basis for sports fishing and large-scale commerce. It has been found to be harmful to salmon breeding grounds. Bristol Bay fishing. Salmon is also an important part of the diet of Alaska Natives living in small villages in the region. Scientists say the mine will destroy more than 130 miles of streams, 2,800 acres of wetlands, and 130 acres of open water.
As the Environmental Protection Agency indicated its intention to thwart the project last fall, a spokesman for the Pebble Mine Partnership said that doing so is byden to combat climate change by limiting domestic extraction of what is important. Mines used in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles and other low-carbon technologies, said they could have unintended consequences of hampering the administration’s goals.
Chris Wood, head of Trout Unlimited, the conservation body that led the legal battle with the Pebble mine, acknowledged the need for important minerals in the United States. But “beyond the most intact and highly functional salmon ecosystems on the planet, there are other places to mine,” he said.
Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat who has long opposed mines, also praised the new EPA’s decision.
“Our region’s fishing and outdoor economies rely on healthy wild salmon runs.” Mr. Kantwell said in a statement. When built, the Pebble mine “will poison the fragile Bristol Bay basin and destroy millions of salmon and thousands of jobs that depend on them.”
The Biden administration argues that the conservation of Bristol Bay has great economic value. The EPA found that the commercial salmon fishery in Bristol Bay generated $ 2 billion in economic activity in 2019, and the economic activity generated by this fishery created 15,000 jobs.
Authorities said they would accept public comments on the proposal until July 5, before announcing the final legal decision.