Major Land Agreement Could Be “Nail in the Coffin” for Alaska’s Pebble Mine

The gold and copper mine threatens to destroy the world’s most prolific sockeye salmon fishery.

Commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay in 2009Christopher S. Miller/Design Pics/Zuma

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In a major win for conservationists, an Alaska Native corporation that owns 44,000 acres of land near Bristol Bay just voted to sell conservation easements to an environmental nonprofit, likely thwarting efforts to build a gold and copper mine that could destroy the world’s most prolific sockeye salmon fishery.

The potential purchase is the culmination of years of about 40 years of fighting between the mining industry and the people who cherish the salmon in Bristol Bay—Alaska Natives, environmentalists, commercial fishermen, and even the Republican senators who represent them. The 82-mile road for transporting ore and the potential contamination from the proposed Pebble Mine threaten to destroy the salmon’s habitat. But the purchase of conservation easements on a huge swath of land by the nonprofit the Conservation Fund, first reported by the Washington Post, could protect the area against future developments—including the mining operation’s planned road. 

Tim Troll, executive director of the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, told the Post, “I would say if it’s not the nail in the coffin, it’s just waiting for the last tap of the hammer.”

This story has been updated to clarify that the Alaska Native corporation, the Pedro Bay Corporation, will still own the land.

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