DILLINGHAM, Alaska - Environmental groups are celebrating a victory in a remote corner of southwest Alaska. Residents near Bristol Bay have voted to try to block one of North America’s largest open pit mining operations.
It’s proposed for a spot next to one of the world’s most productive salmon fisheries.
The Lake and Peninsula Borough voted 280-246 for a change that would prevent projects that would have “significant adverse impact” on fisheries.
Anders Gustafson is the executive director of the Anchorage-based Renewable Resources Coalition.
“And the bottom line is that the majority people in the region have taken a strong stance that should send a strong signal to Cynthia Carol and the administrative folks at Anglo-American and Northern Dynasty that they’re not welcome here,” Gustafson says.
Cynthia Carol is CEO of mine developer Anglo-American. The Pebble Mine would extract gold and copper.
Mike Heatwole is a spokesman for a group called the Pebble Partnership, which represents the mining companies. Although the local initiative passed, Heatwole sees the narrow margin as a good sign in the long run.
“A lot of folks are taking second, third, even fourth looks at where we are with the project and the economic opportunities it may present if it can live up to the high environmental standards that the state and federal government have on the books for a project like this,” Heatwole says.
This week, mine opponents have been touring Washington and Oregon trying to drum up support for their cause among fishermen who live in the Northwest and work in Alaska.
The debate over the proposed mine in southwest Alaska is not over. Mine developers have challenged the local initiative in court. Alaska’s attorney general has called it “unenforceable.”
An Alaska state judge has promised to take up the case next month.
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