Fishing, Conservation, Tribal Groups React To Pebble Mine Permit Re-Evaluation

Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to re-evaluate its decision to deny the Pebble Mine’s permit application. As you’d expect, that news had some reactions to it. The Bristol Bay Defense Fund released a joint statement.

Tribes, Commercial and Sport Fishers, Conservation Groups Respond to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Partial Remand of Pebble Mine Permit Denial 

EPA’s protections for Bristol Bay are unaffected by Army Corps’ review

(Dillingham, Alaska) — This week, in a decision refusing to overturn its November 2020 permit denial for the Pebble Mine, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers remanded a small number of issues raised in a January 2021 appeal filed by the Pebble Limited Partnership for further review by its Alaska District staff.

On November 25, 2020, the Army Corps rejected Pebble’s permit application based on the agency’s conclusion that the proposed large-scale mine would pose “unacceptable adverse effects” to Bristol Bay’s pristine wetlands and world-class wild salmon fishery. The Alaska District will now document certain specific findings in the administrative record to clarify its permit decision.

The Army Corps’ remand is independent of, and has no impact on, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) January 31, 2023 veto of the Pebble Mine project under section 404(c) of the federal Clean Water Act. That EPA decision, based on its independent authority, remains a further legal barrier to permitting the proposed Pebble Mine. 

Below is a joint statement from the Bristol Bay Defense Fund: 

While we understand the Army Corps’ decision, there can be no question based on the overwhelming record of scientific evidence that the destructive Pebble project poses too grave a threat to the Bristol Bay region, its extraordinary wild salmon fishery, and the people and wildlife that it sustains. The headwaters of the Bristol Bay fishery is the wrong place for large-scale mining.

In its appeal decision, the Army Corps rejected the vast majority of PLP’s claims, including the company’s challenge to the Corps’ central finding in denying the permit. At the heart of that decision is its undisturbed conclusion that the Pebble Mine would pose an unacceptable risk of significant degradation to the region’s fisheries and aquatic resources. We expect the limited remand will only clarify that fundamental conclusion and permit denial. 

The Army Corps’ partial remand underscores the urgent need to further protect the Bristol Bay watershed. It is clear that the Pebble Partnership, which has relentlessly pursued this project for more than two decades, will continue its decades-long battle to turn the Bristol Bay watershed into a massive mining district. The people of Bristol Bay, and all who rely on the region’s clean water and wild salmon, should not be subject to these never-ending battles with over twenty other active mining claims in the region. Our elected officials must recognize these ongoing threats to Bristol Bay’s communities, record-breaking salmon runs, and the more than 15,000 jobs it supports and enact watershed-wide protections through an act of Congress.”