On Wednesday, Nov. 25, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit application for the proposed Pebble Mine, an open-pit copper, gold and molybdenum extraction project proposed for the headwaters of Bristol Bay, North America's most prolific salmon habitat.
“Sometimes a project is so bad, so indefensible, that the politics fall to the wayside, and we get the right decision. That is what happened today," said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState.
Advocates for the preservation of Bristol Bay's wild fishery habitat, as well as the region's Native and coastal communities, have emphasized the need for permanent protections, noting that one permit application denial does not end the prospects for the mining project.
"We're obviously celebrating, but a permit denial isn't permanent protections," said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. "So we're focusing on the next step of working with Sen. [Lisa] Murkowski and everyone else who said they support permanent protections for the region."
Northern Dynasty Minerals, which owns Pebble Corp., maintains the metals rights for the Pebble deposit. The Northern Dynasty stock value was down by more than 50 percent (0.83 to 0.37) in the hour following the announcement.
However, as noted in National Fisherman's Expo Online session on Pebble, there is still a lot of work to be done in the way of urging the incoming Biden administration to establish Clean Water Act protections for the region — the same protections the Obama administration's EPA laid out in 2014 and were withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2017.
"The critical next step is to reestablish the Clean Water Act protections for America’s greatest salmon fishery — protections that should have never been done away with in the first place. This can and should be an early priority for the Biden administration," Bristol added.
Nevertheless, this day will mark an important step for those who have vowed to protect the region's renewable resources.
"It's a really, really exciting step toward permanent protections," Carscallen said.