“Bait and Switch!” “Fantasy Mine!” New Proposed Pebble Mine Access Route Rankles Bristol Bay Officials

Today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a new preferred road and infrastructure access route for the proposed Pebble Mine, a complete reversal of previous proposals that has drawn the ire of Bristol Bay conservation and environmental groups that have opposed the mine, using terms such as “bait and switch” and “fantasy mine.”

SalmonState offered this statement on the announcement:

ANCHORAGE— Today, in a stunning change of direction that calls into question the validity and legality of the ongoing Pebble Mine permitting process and Environmental Analysis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a new preferred road and infrastructure access route to the proposed megamine in Bristol Bay’s headwaters. 

Until today, Pebble’s preferred route, the so-called South Access Route, called for construction of a port, road and ferry system, to facilitate a mine operating for 20 years. Today’s announcement of a switch to the “North Access Route” is designed to service a mine operating for at least 78 years, nearly quadrupling the scale and scope of the already massive project and dramatically increasing the potential for damage to Bristol Bay’s world class salmon fishery.

“This is about Pebble pushing for a bigger mine under the guise of the smaller plan; this is a con game, a giant bait and switch, and the Army Corps is in on the scam: analyze for one option and allow for another. This is government in service to a foreign mining company and a betrayal of those who depend on Bristol Bay,” said SalmonState’s Bristol Bay Campaign Coordinator, Rachel James. 

“Now is the time for Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Dan Sullivan and the rest of Congress to address the clear collusion between the Army Corps and a foreign mining company and call for a complete reboot of the environmental analysis,” said James. “This EIS process has turned into one giant grift and its victims are the thousands of Alaskans already grappling with massive uncertainty heading into the fishing season.”

SalmonState works to keep Alaska a place wild salmon thrive.

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay also offered a reply to the news:

Dillingham, AK – Today the Army Corps of Engineers announced it has selected a “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative” (LEDPA) for the Pebble Mine. The Corps stated Pebble has accepted the Corps’ recommendation for the “Northern route”, which local landowners have stated is not available.  

The tribes met this news with skepticism as the Corps said the specifics of the LEDPA won’t be officially published until the Corps issues a record of decision, slated for this fall. The tribes are calling the Corps’ selection of the “Northern route,” merely the latest attempt by the Corps to fast-track the project permit regardless of scientific information and fact.

“The Corps can permit a fantasy mine but today’s announcement just proves this toxic project has no basis in reality, we will never trade our salmon for gold,” stated Keith Jensen, President of Pedro Bay Village Council. “Pedro Bay’s opposition to Pebble has not faltered, our tribal council has been opposed this toxic project for years. Today’s announcement by the Corps about the Northern transportation route doesn’t add up, as the major landowners have already and continue to say Pebble is not and will not be allowed to use their property.” 

The Corps’ selection is particularly impractical given that multiple landowners along the selected transportation route have publicly declared that they will not grant Pebble access or permission to use the lands. Instead of acknowledging the problems with the route, the Corps is doing everything it can to complete the permitting process before the Presidential election, regardless of the near unanimous criticism of the Corps’ analysis of the project from Congress, other federal agencies, and the region’s tribes.

“The people of Bristol Bay have been clear. The only acceptable alternative is the no action alternative, meaning no mine and no permit. Pebble poses too great a threat to Bristol Bay fisheries & therefore our people,” said Robert Heyano, President of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The permitting process to date has failed Bristol Bay, throughout the environmental review, state and federal agencies have found severe deficiencies in Pebble’s plan and the Corps analysis of Pebble’s impacts. It is clear the Army Corps has no intent of conducting an adequate review and the project should be vetoed by the EPA.”
United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a tribal consortium representing 15 Bristol Bay tribal governments (that represent over 80 percent of the region’s total population) working to protect the Yup’ik, Dena’ina, and Alutiiq way of life in Bristol Bay.