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Sockeye Salmon vs. Pebble Mine: The Controversial Debate to Protect a Fragile Ecosystem from Destruction

08 May 2014 Taylor & Francis

In the first instalment of Samuel Snyder’s two article spread in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, focuses on the background of the hotly debated Pebble Mine issue. “Bristol Bay Wild Salmon, Pebble Mine, and Intractable Conflict: Lessons for Environmental Studies and Sciences” lays the foundation for the extremely controversial topic of building the proposed Pebble Mine just miles away from Bristol Bay, Alaska. When referring to Alaska as the last great frontier, Bristol Bay is what would come to mind. It is 40,000 square miles teaming with caribou, wolves, moose, and, most importantly, salmon. “Bristol Bay is home to the world’s largest runs of sockeye salmon with returns averaging 37.5 million annually and having been as high as 60 million.” 

The mining company, Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) would like to build a large-scale mine in order to access the largest copper-gold-molybdenum deposits in the world. Despite the estimated numbers of the mine, studies show “that roughly 99% of the mined ore body is waste.” The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) has reported that the mining could remove 94 miles of streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands that contain about 90% of fish vital to the subsistence life.

This issue has brought together an unlikely and eclectic opposition group that contains hunters, anglers, Republicans, Democrats, Alaskans, and global citizens. This has called for the U.S. EPA to launch a two year investigation into the effects to wild life, if the mine was approved. Their findings indicated, simply, that at a minimum, mining ‘would cause the loss of spawning and rearing habitat for multiple salmoniods.’

However, the fight against Pebble Mine is far from over. Important decisions related to the outcome of this battle are being determined now. Snyder’s analysis and comment in regards to these developments will be recorded in an upcoming issue of Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development.

To access the article go to, visit

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