U.S. Sen. Mark Begich says that he's concluded the proposed Pebble mine cannot be developed without harming the Bristol Bay region's world-famous red salmon runs.
"Wrong mine, wrong place, too big," Begich said in an interview. "Too many potential long-term impacts to a fishery that is pretty critical to that area but also to Alaska, to world markets."
He's the first member of Alaska's current congressional delegation to speak out firmly in opposition to the mine. His comments came after the Environmental Protection Agency released a hefty -- and controversial -- scientific study Wednesday that found a big mine posed significant risks to Bristol Bay salmon. The huge Pebble gold and copper deposit is at the headwaters of two rivers that together account for 25 percent of the world's sockeye salmon production. Bristol Bay overall produces half the world's red salmon.
Begich's language almost mirrors former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' wording back in 2008 when asked about Pebble at a campaign stop in Kodiak. "I am not opposed to mining, but it is the wrong mine for the wrong place," Stevens said. (Begich, a Democrat, upset Stevens in that year's general election. Two years later Stevens was killed in a plane crash during a silver salmon fishing trip in the region.)