EPA Puts Mine on Hold

ENVIRONMENT

Citing threats to the salmon population and watershed health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put on hold plans for a massive open-pit copper mine in Alaska, invoking Clean Water Act rules. (National Geographic News)

Use our resources to better understand the debate surrounding the Pebble Mine.

"Alaska's Choice: Salmon or Gold?" asked National Geographic magazine. The salmon seem to have (at least for the time being) won. Photo courtesy of Thomas Quinn, University of Washington, and the Environmental Protection Agency

Alaska’s Choice: Salmon or Gold?” asked National Geographic magazine. The salmon seem to have (at least for the time being) won.
Photo courtesy Thomas Quinn, University of Washington, and the Environmental Protection Agency

Discussion Ideas

  • Watch our media spotlight video on the Pebble Mine controversy. Work through the short series of questions in the “Questions” tab.
    • What are the benefits of a gold mine in Bristol Bay?
      • A gold mine would provide hundreds of jobs, improving the economy of the region.
    • How large would Pebble Mine be?
      • Pebble Mine would be an open pit about two miles long and 1,700 feet deep.
    • A leak or spill from Pebble Mine would endanger the local sockeye salmon population. What is another danger of such a spill?
      • A spill could contaminate freshwater resources.

       

  • According to the Nat Geo News article, what was the EPA’s reasoning behind halting development of the Pebble Mine project? Was this an economic or environmental decision?
    • Both. “Extensive scientific study has given us ample reason to believe that the Pebble Mine would likely have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed and its abundant salmon fisheries,” says EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
      • Economic and Environmental: On the EPA’s website, a pie chart dramatically shows how Bristol Bay is home to half of the world’s sockeye salmon population. Commercial fishing is the biggest industry in Bristol Bay. The salmon population (including king, red, chum, silver, and pink varieties, as well as sockeye) also provides a strong sport fishing and tourist economy. Critics worry a mine would threaten this lucrative industry.
      • Economic and Environmental. “Pure water is more precious than gold,” says one Bristol Bay resident in our video. Protecting the watershed is a safety issue, as well as an economic one–critics worry pollution linked to the mine may limit access to water used for drinking, hygiene, and industry. This would put an economic strain on local, state, and federal government agencies.

     

  • Our video (as well as a terrific National Geographic magazine article) outlines the controversy surrounding the Pebble Mine. Does the EPA’s decision end that controversy? The magazine article asked about “Alaska’s Choice: Salmon or Gold.” Have the salmon won?

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