NRDC Launches BioGem Campaign to Save Alaska's Bristol Bay

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jessica Lass at 310-434-2300 (main), jlass@nrdc.org

NRDC Launches BioGem Campaign to Save Alaska's Bristol Bay

Proposed Mine Could Destroy World's Largest Salmon Run and Local Fishing Industry

LOS ANGELES - The Natural Resources Defense Council announced today a new BioGem
campaign to save Alaska’s Bristol Bay, the world’s most productive
salmon fishery, from the development of Pebble Mine, one of the largest
gold and copper mines ever proposed.

“There are few
human activities as toxic as large-scale mining,” said Joel Reynolds,
senior attorney and director of NRDC’s marine mammal protection
project. “The Pebble Mine project could lead to widespread water
contamination, which would destroy the salmon runs of the Bristol Bay
watershed and thereby devastate the native communities and abundant
wildlife the salmon have supported for thousands of years.”

Despite
vehement opposition from a broad coalition led by Alaskan native
communities and fishermen, foreign mining interests, including Anglo
American, Rio Tinto, and Mitsubishi Corporation, are in the process of
planning one of North America’s largest gold mines at Pebble, which
would also produce copper and molybdenum. 

Working with
local conservation, tribal, and recreational organizations, as well as
its members, NRDC’s BioGems initiative will spearhead a national
campaign harnessing the power of citizen activism to keep the mine from
ever breaking ground and to advance long-term conservation of the area.

The
proposed Pebble Mine site would create a two-mile wide open pit mine,
thousands of feet deep, directly next to Lake Iliamna, which feeds a
40,000-square mile watershed and Bristol Bay itself. As much as 9.1
billion tons of toxic mining discharge would be produced and stored in
man-made ponds, covering at least 10 square miles. Three of the tallest
dams in the world would be constructed to hold waste from the mine
including cyanide, sulfuric acid, arsenic, selenium, and other toxic
substances. The mining pit, miles of roads covering the Pebble site and
man-made dams all run the risk of polluting nearby rivers, ground and
surface waters critical to the Bay’s health. 

“Pebble
Mine is a project that, by its nature and size, threatens not only the
natural resources of southwest Alaska on a staggering scale, but the
economic foundation of communities throughout the Bristol Bay region,”
said Andrew Wetzler, senior attorney and director of NRDC’s wildlife
conservation project.

Both the Kvichak and Nushagak
rivers and the salmon industry they support could be affected by the
proposed Pebble Mine operations. These two Bay tributaries are home to
the world’s largest sockeye and king salmon runs. Salmon is one of
southwestern Alaska’s most valuable renewable resources, supporting one
of only two freshwater harbor seal populations in the world, generating
tens of thousands of jobs and over $300 million in revenue each year.
The salmon also support a vast ecosystem, feeding grizzly bears,
eagles, wolves, beluga whales, and killer whales.   

Bristol
Bay is an ecosystem surrounded by wild tundra, crisscrossed by swift
rivers, and dotted with a spectacular array of national parks, wildlife
refuges, the nation’s largest state park, and the largest freshwater
lake in Alaska.

NRDC’s campaign to protect Bristol Bay
and its watershed is part of a larger initiative the organization
launched in 2001 to defend exceptional, imperiled ecosystems. Now more
than ever, North and South America's last wildlands and rarest wildlife
are under threat from large scale logging, mining and
industrialization. 

Previous NRDC campaigns forced
Mitsubishi and the Mexican government to abandon plans to build a
massive industrial salt plant on a lagoon in southern Baja California,
Mexico, that is a critical breeding area for the Pacific gray whale,
and persuaded the Timber Products Company in Alaska to drop plans for a
veneer mill that would have threatened the Tongass National Forest.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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