Opponents of Pebble Mine — and they are legion — can take comfort in the dismissal last week of a lawsuit the Pebble Mine developers brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Plenty of Alaska salmon fishermen have registered their opposition to the proposed Pebble Mine, which threatens Bristol Bay’s world-famous sockeye fishery. The Environmental Protection Agency has received approximately 625,000 comments — 20,000 of them from Alaskans — supporting EPA protection of the sockeye resource. NMFS photoBeginning with the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, Bristol Bay watershed resources generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year and provide thousands of jobs. These are circumstances that cannot always be argued by opponents of economic development, who are often depicted as tree huggers with nothing better to do.

The EPA has received upward of 625,000 comments on Pebble and has held seven public hearings as well. The open-pit mine, to be located in the Bristol Bay watershed, would be three-quarters of a mile deep and span an area larger than Manhattan.

The risks of such a mine were brought home in August when a tailings dam burst at a mine on a tributary of the Fraser River in Vancouver, turning loose 2.6 billion gallons of wastewater and 1.2 billion gallons of metals-bearing sand on the eve of a sockeye run projected at two million fish.

Nonetheless, with copper and other minerals at stake in Pebble valued at half a trillion dollars, it’s not likely Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. is simply going to go away mad because of an adverse legal decision. (A judge ruled that the EPA was within its rights to consider limits on mining activity at Pebble even before an application for a Clean Water Act permit was submitted. The EPA says it will announce a decision in February.)

Activists who oppose Pebble mine don’t need me to warn them of the risks of complacency. Those of you who sympathize with them from afar should consider engagement.

Economics are a force of nature and $500 billion is a hurricane. Take some comfort, but don’t get comfortable.

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