There’s a vast supply of valuable metal in Alaska just waiting to be mined, but doing so could spell environmental disaster for the area’s salmon population. A major discovery of gold, copper and a metallic ore called molybdenum have been scoped out via exploratory drills near Bristol Bay, Alaska. If unearthed, they are estimated to be worth some $300 billion, and extracting them could provide hundreds of jobs for rural Alaskans. But the streams, rivers and tributaries that empty into the bay are also home to one of the world’s last great runs of Pacific sockeye salmon.
The Pebble Mine operation, as it’s known, is located in the heart of the Bristol Bay watershed. In July 2007, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and London-based mining group Anglo American established the Pebble Partnership to permit, engineer, construct and operate a long-term copper and gold mine there. (Rio Tinto also has a minority stake in the project.)