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Friday, January 28, 2022

Bristol Bay Votes to “Save Our Salmon” from the Threat of Pebble Mine


Voters in the Lake and Peninsula Borough near Bristol Bay have had their say. After being blanketed with pro-Pebble mine propaganda telling residents that if the initiative passed it would jeopardize future projects like roads and airports and docks, the majority of the residents remain unconvinced. The Pebble Partnership has stated repeatedly that if local residents don’t want the mine, then there will be no mine. According to an October 2008 article on the Fast Company website, Anglo American’s CEO Cynthia Carroll said, “I will not go where people don’t want us. I just won’t. We’ve got enough on our plate without having communities against us.”

Since that time, it’s been an all out media war to convince Alaskans that the continent’s largest open pit mine can exist at the headwaters of the continent’s largest wild salmon fishery without risk to the sport and commercial fishery, the larger ecosystem, subsistence hunting and fishing, and Native culture.

Nice try.

The pro-Pebble campaign even resorted to personal attacks through direct mail, and reliable shills like Paul Jenkins with access to the Anchorage Daily News. They went after Bob Gillam, the primary funder of anti-Pebble messaging. The talking point? Don’t trust Bob Gillam and all his wealthy buddies…  Those selfish bastards just want to preserve the FISH.  The nerve.

In an area supported by fish, this was obviously not a winning argument, and implies (rightly so) that the Pebble Mine actually does jeopardize fishing. No thinking person could imagine that a cyanide leak would selectively affect the sport fishing industry, or wealthy people,  and yet magically leave the rest of the “fishing playground” that supports commercial and subsistence fishing unaffected.

“Don’t be fooled by the big money of a guy who’s lived in the area since the 1980s and loves to fish,” they urge. “Be fooled by the big money of major international mining conglomerates with a 100% track record of environmental devastation. They’ll do you right!”  And just for good measure they threw in a graphic of an eyeless rotting dead salmon, because it’s just a little creepy and it can’t hurt when you’re trying to vilify a guy who’s trying to save the fish, by associating him with a dead one.  Yeah, that’ll work.

The initiative changes local borough law which will now prohibit permitting any large mining project that would have a “significant adverse impact” on salmon streams. One wonders why, if Pebble Partnership is right in what they tell us – that there will be no significant adverse impact – that they should have so vigorously opposed the initiative.

The misinformation from Pebble swayed the vote, but not by enough to defeat the initiative. It passed with a vote of 280-246. The vote was done by mail, and votes were tallied in King Salmon yesterday. Opponents of the initiative challenged votes for hours, even throwing out Bob Gillam’s vote.  But in the end they lost, and the locals had their say.

But what does this all mean, anyway? Does this stop the mine? As long as the initiative holds, yes it does. How long it holds is another matter.

Expect a court challenge from Pebble Partnership in the next month.  And expect Governor Sean Parnell to jump aboard, dragging “the State of Alaska” with him. The initiative may well be overturned on the grounds that according to the Alaska State Constitution, it is the legislature that has the ultimate say in matters of resource extraction, and not local governments.  Both sides knew this going in, but this vote was more than what it appeared. It is now clear that even despite massive corporate pressures, misinformation, and a bloody PR war that got very personal, local residents have been shown to oppose the mine. Whether the issue holds up in court or not, the Pebble Partnership can’t say that the local residents are in favor of the project. And that’s something.

Art Hackney, a media consultant who worked for the initiative campaign, said he believes the margin of victory would have been greater if it had been up-or-down vote on Pebble and taken in the entire Bristol Bay region. But he said he’ll take a 53.2 percent victory on an initiative and a “win is a win.”

The Pebble Partnership, consisting of international mining giant Anglo American, and the smaller Northern Dynasty Minerals (who is currently trying to get out of the project) call the initiative “ill-conceived” and claim they are “united with the community to protect the fishery.”  It seems their commitment to protect the fishery does not extend to making it illegal to destroy it. Nor does it extend to sport fish, or fish that may be caught by rich people, or people from outside Alaska. But other than that, they’re happy to “study” the issue, and ask Alaskans to ignore their common sense.

“Just give Pebble a chance,” implore the mine proponents. “We promise, if we screw up this one and destroy your fishery, we’ll never do it again. Cross our hearts.”

[This is a developing story. Check back for updates]



28 Responses to “Bristol Bay Votes to “Save Our Salmon” from the Threat of Pebble Mine”
  1. Polarbear says:

    The issues in the Bristol Bay area are more complex than for or against Pebble. There are many bay area residents who have access to the fishery, the processors, and canneries. There are many families who do not have access to the fishery, for many reasons, including the loss of limited entry licenses to non-residents. For young local families who aspire to be fishing families, it is almost impossible financially to get into the fishery. For those local residents not in the fishery, it is tough to find work. They look around their households, at their poverty, at limited opportunity, and they seek alternatives. And there are those famlies in the fishery who earn only seasonal income. For many families there is not enough fishery income to last year-round.

    I am not saying that Pebble, as it is configured now, is the answer. Far from it. Simply put, there has never been a mine of this size anywhere on the globe that has not turned the nearby river toxic. Not one. Don’t you just hate those “Mind Closed” hats from Pebble. It is just the opposite. Open minds see the appalling track record of the industry, including the principals behind Pebble.

    Still, being “progressive” means minds-wide-open. It is not enough to just say “no”, without consideration for those bay residents who do not have employment. We have huge mineral resources in rural Alaska which might be extracted properly on scales and models and systems appropriate to safe extraction, and we ought to turn our University system loose on this challenge. We ought to work at local processing of ore, and at local conversion of ore into useful products, Capture the value here, and build economic infrastructure that serves all, over a long, long period of time.

    Just saying “no” without regard for the whole problem, all the human pain, and the need for hope will, eventually, result in losing the election, and result in Pebble being built.

  2. leenie17 says:

    Hmmm…which would I prefer to see while visiting the magnificent state of Alaska?

    – a stream vibrating with the shimmering bodies of hormonally charged salmon, swimming upstream to spawn in pristine streams winding their way between majestic mountains covered in snow and evergreens


    – a pond filled with foul-smelling toxic waste water, surrounded by a 700-foot earthen dam and adjoining an enormous open pit, 2 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, filled with heavy machinery, dust and dirt

  3. mike from iowa says:

    I don’t mean to sound petty,however,I am getting tired of seeing salmon decked out in enemy colors-red particularly. Can’t anyone convince salmon to turn blue? It would be in their best interest and the nutters could tee off on the new color and make bigger fools of themselves. Would some one in Alaska with serious pull,get right on this? Thanks a bunch.

    • carol says:

      Sorry but salmon have been red long before the RWNJ claimed that color. They have the historical claim on the color. If you have not eaten red salmon, you should make the trip to the great state during salmon season and prepare to be amazed. Or if you like to fish, come during silver salmon season, they can be good fighters and taste nearly as good as reds. I would prefer to see the RWNJ reds just turn color – like invisible.

      • benlomond2 says:

        aahhhh the color RED…. interesting isn’t it…that the Communist Party’s color is Red,,, and so is the color associated with the Republican Party ????

  4. benlomond2 says:

    outstanding election results ! a bit surprised at how close the results were tho’… would be interesting to find out how many votes that were thrown out were for and against the iniative, and on what basis they were thrown out…

    • Alaska Pi says:

      93 thrown
      close vote has more to do with concern about enforceability of the law and cost to borough to defend than whether folks are for or against Pebble.
      folks are overwhelmingly against

      • UgaVic says:

        AK Pi, you are so right. It might well have been a very different turnout IF it has been a thumbs up or down on Pebble alone but it was not. It was not. It was on the issue presented and I would not call a 34 vote margin either a serious endorsement of EITHER side. Most realize that no matter what happens on the Pebble development it will greatly impact our borough and area. No one is taking any part of it lightly.

        I heard today, from a very reliable source, that the borough committee worked VERY hard to bend over backwards to both follow the ‘rules’ and not show any difference to either side of the vote.

        Personally I am very proud of both my borough for managing to think, discuss, ask questions, hold this vote and finally all be very ‘adult’ with the outcome to all their neighbors!

        This is not the first ‘test’ we will have.

  5. BeeEss says:

    I don’t think Parnell will be stupid enough to “take off his governor’s hat” and endorse Pebble. People are smarter now (Ihope). I think we can win this fight. Thanks to the citizens of Wisconsin for giving me hope.

  6. PollyinAK says:

    I always throw away my Pebble Mine Partnership mail. I suppose I should write “return to sender” and send it back. That’s a thought.

  7. Zyxomma says:

    There’s another threat to salmon that may be even more serious than Pebble:

    There’s a salmon virus from Europe that has shown up in wild salmon from the Pacific northwest. It’s very dire.

    • mike from iowa says:

      the despoilers will use this as a sign from their god of greed that salmon are of no consequence when the wealthy want more wealth. nBesides all salmon die eventually,now don’t they?

  8. Dave B. says:

    Ok, Anglo American you said if the people of Bristol Bay did not want the Pebble mine, you would not proceed with the project. Well the people have spoken and they said “No” to the mine. Time to pack-up and go look for other places to plunder.

  9. Zyxomma says:

    Lake & Pen, good for you!! And good for the fish. Even if there’s an end run around this (as there’s bound to be, considering whose side Parnell is on), the people have spoken and voted.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      It will not be an end run.
      It’s going to be a face on crash over state v borough home-rule powers .
      It might not strike we in Alaska odd that Lake and Pen was actually allowed to have this on the ballot because we have a relatively unique set of rules as reagrds the turf afforded local govts which gives broad powers and liberal interpretation to notions of home rule but I’ve been startled that folks from elsewhere haven’t picked it up by and large. Most states operate , even under home rule law, with the Dillon’s rule notion that the state’s interest always trumps local when there is a conflict. Here it’s not always so and this may end up being a precedent setting case if the right attorneys frame it all the right way. Doesn’t look good though… Superior Court and Supreme court who allowed it to go on the ballot both see issues with the constitutional exhortation that the Legislature is the one in charge of law to do with resources- on the face of it that would trump the home rule borough.
      Not holding my breath that the Anglo Am twits will stand by the promise not to come in where not wanted either…lying sack o spuds folks that they are.

  10. mike from iowa says:

    a dead salmon with no eyes-symbollic of korporate amerika,to be sure. We don’t see your POV,we don’t hear your POV and we won’t speak to your POV. Other than that,citizens,we are in this with you.

    • mike from iowa says:

      My apologies for this to the mods,but,Diane McEachern has now made the little big time on Yahoo. AP has a story about her one woman occupation of the tundra. RWNJ are out in force in the comments section. If you want to occupy dress up in Kevlar and be safe.

      • Riverwoman says:

        I just don’t know why anyone needs to be so mean. Maybe because they can comment anonymously. You are right, the comments on the article are aweful. If I were a conservative, I would be embarrassed to be in such crude company.

  11. Tom says:

    Here in Arizona, we are continually fighting the mines, including Anglo American, too. They believe in asking for forgiveness instead of permission.

    PS Someone needs to tell these people they really need to change their name. Anglo American doesn’t sit too well down here near the border.

  12. zyggy says:

    maybe not this year, or in 10 years, but eventually they will mine the crap out of that area and destroy the salmon run for hundreds of years.

  13. beth says:

    As Alaska’s infamous* governot extraordinaire so sagely and knowledgeably proclaimed in her resignation speech half-way through her first term in office: “only dead fish ‘go with the flow’.” (At least she got one thing right!)

    I’m awfully glad the good folks of the Lake and Peninsula Borough have spoken loud and clear against Pebble Mine operatives creating an environment that’d be a guaranteed kill zone for all manner of flora and fauna…to include the sockeye salmon. Amazing what banding together to fight an inevitable disaster-in-the-making, can accomplish. My hat is off to them. beth.

    *Infamous as she probably views it when it’s applied to her — in the vein of “The Three Amigos”. Here: b.

    • mike from iowa says:

      technically young salmon do go with the flow to get to the open ocean where they presumably pack on all those yummy pounds of delectable proteins that I keep hearing people rave about. I myself have never tasted salmon,I have never seen an actual live salmon and I couldn’t tell one salmon from another. Do they all have names?

  14. Deni says:

    Good. Now start contacting your legislators ‘cus you know the Pebble Mine backers aren’t going to go away quietly with their tail between their legs. If they can’t get in through the front door, they’ll sneak in the back door any way they can.

  15. bubbles says:

    what’s next? have we the people and we the fish won? no Pebble Mine? time for the bubbly?
    i truly hope we are on the way to victory.

  16. OzMud says:

    Great news! I love it when the fish win 🙂

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Not the final result for sure, but a great step in the right direction. The locals are standing up for their right to say, “you can’t destroy our environment”.