Editor's Note: This story was originally published January 3, 2007.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Jewelers are being asked to boycott gold from a huge open pit mine proposed for Alaska that many Alaska Natives fear will ruin their way of life.
An ad campaign launched this week in National Jeweler, an industry news tabloid, is designed to educate jewelers about the Pebble Mine project in the Bristol Bay watershed, home to the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world.
"Our biggest concern is what will the future generations have?" said Bobby Andrew, spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of eight Alaska Native village corporations in Bristol Bay. "This type of massive industrialization at the heart of Bristol Bay will forever harm the abundant fish and wildlife resources that sustain this region."
Earthworks, a Washington D.C.-based environmental group, is paying between $10,000 and $20,000 to place the ad in the January, February and March issues of National Jeweler.
"We need your help. Bristol Bay is the wrong place for a gold mine. No responsible jeweler would knowingly buy gold mined there," the ad says. "Your support will let customers know that you care about preserving your company's glowing reputation."
Jewelers are being asked to take a pledge at http://www.protectbristolbay.org.
Earthworks president Steve D'Esposito said consumers increasingly want to know that lives were not destroyed in making their gold and diamond jewelry.
"That includes destruction of the watershed," D'Esposito said.
The movie "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, is helping get that message across to the public, he said. The movie is set in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s, when the West African country was in the throes of a civil war and untraceable diamonds allegedly funded fighters who hacked off people's hands with machetes and burned entire villages.
"I think "Blood Diamond" is the 'Ah-ha!' moment when the consumer says this wedding ring does not come magically, it comes from some place," D'Esposito said.
The National Jeweler ad is intended to get that message across to jewelers, who he said account for up to 85 percent of the world's annual gold consumption.
Brian Kraft, a Bristol Bay fishing lodge owner and founder of the Bristol Bay Alliance, said jewelers are being asked to help protect what he describes as a world-class treasure.
"Their customers will want to know that the jewelry they purchase does not come at the expense of the world's greatest salmon fishery and the communities that depend on it," he said.
Canadian company Northern Dynasty Minerals is proposing to build the mine 238 miles southwest of Anchorage. The company says Pebble Mine is the largest North American gold deposit and second-largest copper deposit on the continent. It estimates the total value of metals at Pebble Mine at between $150 billion and $200 billion.
Northern Dynasty did not immediately return a call Wednesday for comment.
The company says it is still developing plans for the mine and has not settled on size or design.
The company has applied to construct a dam rising more than 700 feet to hold mine tailings. Critics say the dam would be higher than the Grand Coulee Dam, the Hoover Dam and the Seattle Space Needle.
Trout Unlimited, which last month launched a similar ad campaign, says the mine would cover 15 square miles, with an open pit 2 miles long and a half-mile wide and over 1,700 feet deep.
Last month, 37 leaders in the sport fishing industry launched the similar campaign, urging fishermen to oppose the mine. Their message was delivered in ads placed in Fish Alaska magazine and Fly Fisherman Magazine.