How Alaska Mining Could Impact the Wild Salmon Population

By Paul Greenberg, "Minerals vs. Salmon," March/April 2012

In Alaska's Bristol Bay, the wild salmon fishery may be threatened by possible mining for copper and other minerals.

Each year 40 million salmon migrate into Alaska's Bristol Bay, providing more than half our wild sockeye catch. But as I flew over the area last spring I realized how quickly we could lose this.

My pilot, Rick Halford, a former Republican Alaska state senator, banked his Cessna and pointed off to the proposed site of Pebble Mine and the dams it would entail. "That's where they would attach the anchors for the dam," he said over the airplane headset. "To contain the slag they're anticipating, it would have to go from here all the way over to that mountain over there. And way ahead you can see where they would put the other dam. You have to see it from up here to grasp the arrogance of it all."

Pebble Mine is the brainchild of the Canadian prospector Northern Dynasty and Anglo American, a large corporation with operations including South Africa's De Beers diamond mines. The two companies hold the mineral rights to 186 square miles in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, a vast deposit that may contain more than $300 billion of copper, gold and molybdenum.

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