Biden takes steps to protect Alaska’s main watershed from mining
Humpback Whale in Bristol Bay, Alaska
Enrique Aguirre Avenue | Photodisc | Getty Images
The Biden administration on Wednesday moved to ban mining waste disposal in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, potentially halting the controversial Pebble Mine project that has been disputed for more than a decade.
If finalized, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal would protect one of the world’s largest salmon fisheries and block a plan to mine in the southern Alaska watershed for copper, gold and other metals.
EPA action to end a years-long battle between Alaska Natives and the mining industry is part of President Joe Biden’s larger goal to conserve 30% of the land and waters of the countries by 2030, as well as restoring biodiversity and protecting wilderness from climate change.
The Bristol Bay watershed has supported critical wildlife and a $2 billion commercial fishing industry that has long supported Alaska Native communities and attracted travelers to the area.
EPA officials, citing the Clean Water Act of 1972, found that waste associated with the mining plan could cause “unacceptable adverse effects” on watershed fisheries, including the permanent destruction of 8.5 miles of streams that would displace or kill salmon.
“The Bristol Bay watershed is a shining example of how our nation’s waters are essential for healthy communities, vibrant ecosystems and a thriving economy,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. , in a press release.
“EPA is committed to following science, the law, and a transparent public process to determine what is necessary to ensure that this irreplaceable and invaluable resource is protected for current and future generations,” Regan said.
However, the company behind the mining plan, Pebble Limited Partnership, said it was still working to secure a permit and called the EPA’s decision a “giant step backwards” for the goals of the EPA. climate change administration.
“I find it ironic that the President is using the Defense Production Act to produce more renewable energy minerals such as copper, while other members of the administration are looking for political ways to shut down domestic mining projects. such as ours,” said John Shively, CEO of the company. said in a statement.
The legal ruling would prohibit any entity from dumping waste associated with the operation of the Pebble deposit within the mine site footprint. EPA is accepting public comments on the revised proposal at public hearings in June and through written submissions through July 5.