Washington — The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the brakes on the massive Pebble Mine project in Alaska, saying it endangers the finest wild salmon run on earth.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Friday her agency will look for ways to protect the salmon. In the meantime, the Army Corps of Engineers won’t be allowed to issue a permit for the mine.
“Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” McCarthy said. “It’s why EPA is taking this step forward in our effort to ensure protection for the world’s most productive salmon fishery from the risks it faces from what could be one of the largest open pit mines on earth.”
EPA released a report last month saying the mine could destroy up to 94 miles of salmon streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds and lakes. McCarthy visited the region last summer and was clearly moved as Alaska Natives opposed to the project described their cultural ties to the salmon.
“The science EPA reviewed paints a clear picture: Large-scale copper mining of the Pebble deposit would likely result in significant and irreversible harm to the salmon and the people and industries that rely on them,” said Dennis McLerran, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Northwest.
EPA said Friday it is taking action under the Clean Water Act to “identify appropriate actions” to protect the salmon. That could include restrictions on the proposed mine or banning it altogether. The process started today with consultation by the EPA with the Army Corps of Engineers and project developers.