In London in 2008, I sat down with Cynthia Carroll, the CEO of the UK-based mining corporation behind the proposed Pebble Mine. She promised me then, and every year since, that Anglo American wouldn't develop the Pebble Mine if it didn't have community support.
Recently Carroll resigned from her company under pressure, and we're left to wonder who is accountable for that promise.
In our meetings, Carroll stressed that Anglo American places high priority on safety standards and the will of the communities near their mines, yet her resignation comes at a time that the company faces decreased stock value and mounting criticism of its management of several mines. Violent confrontations have erupted at its mines in South Africa, where thousands of struggling workers are protesting work and pay conditions.
Anglo American's leadership is changing, but opposition to its Pebble Mine has remained steadfast. The communities around Bristol Bay are still fighting to defend our way of life and the sockeye fishery against the threat of the Pebble Mine.
Anglo American should use this leadership change as an opportunity to reassess their options and drop the Pebble Mine.
The large-scale disruption and inevitable water pollution that comes with this scale of mining cannot coexist with the unparalleled salmon fishery of Bristol Bay. The impacts are too great, as those who live here know in our hearts, and the Environmental Protection Agency has shown with their science. Our future is the fishery, and the subsistence lifestyle and sustainable jobs it supplies.
Here in Bristol Bay, we are fishermen, not miners. The commercial and sport fishing industry, so dependent on clean water and the healthy supply of salmon, generates nearly $500 million in revenue annually and creates at least 14,000 jobs. It does so in a sustainable manner, without leaving billions of tons of toxic waste behind.
A recent draft EPA study found that the Pebble Mine would destroy spawning streams and leave toxic mine waste here forever, even under the best circumstances. As a community we have long stood shoulder to shoulder in opposition to the mine.
When the EPA releases the final version of this study in the near future, it needs to take immediate steps to use Section 404c of the Clean Water Act to protect our fishery and stop the mine. That's what Bristol Bay residents, and the science, support.
Whoever takes over the leadership position at Anglo American should see that the science and our communities are aligned against this proposal. Anglo should focus on fixing the problems at their current mines, and leave us to our fishing.
Bobby Andrew is a lifelong subsistence fisherman who lives in Dillingham. He is a member and spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of Alaska Native village corporations and Tribes in Bristol Bay.
This commentary was first published by The Bristol Bay Times and is republished here with permission. The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.