Last year, the Obama administration permanently banned oil drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, America’s richest salmon fishery and the heart of a $2.2 billion regional fishing industry. One huge threat to this extraordinary ecosystem remains: a proposed gold and copper operation known as the Pebble Mine. If built, it would affect a huge area of clear-running headwater streams and wetlands that feed the bay. Responding to urgent requests from nine native tribes that depend on the headwaters for subsistence, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has now announced that it will assess the risks to the bay from mining and commercial projects in general.
The Pebble Mine project is being pursued by Anglo American and Northern Dynasty, in which Rio Tinto has an important stake.