Initiative on Bristol Bay Area Mines May Go to Ballot Box

A citizen initiative that would require legislative approval for future large-scale metallic sulfide mines in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve has been certified, clearing the way for sponsors to gather a total of 30,169 signatures.

Unless the Alaska Legislature passes a substantially similar piece of legislation in its upcoming session, the initiative will appear on statewide ballots during Alaska’s primary election on Aug. 19, 2014.

Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell announced Dec. 23 that the initiative had been certified, after the Department of Law concluded that the proposed bill was in proper form under state statutes.

The initiative defines large-scale metallic sulfide mining operations as “a specific mining proposal to extract metals, including gold and copper, from sulfide-bearing rock and would directly disturb 640 or more acres of land.”

The state Division of Elections will now prepare and print sequentially numbered petition booklets to allow for the gathering of signatures statewide.

The initiative is one of a number of efforts generated by opponents of the proposed Pebble mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed. Backers of the mine maintain that they can develop and operate the massive copper, gold and molybdenum prospect and strengthen the economy of Southwest Alaska in harmony with the multi-million dollar commercial and sport fisheries economy which provides thousands of jobs directly and indirectly related to the fisheries.

Opponents of the mine contend that the mine will have severely adverse effects on fisheries habitat vital to the world-famous wild sockeye salmon runs on which commercial, sport and subsistence users depend, along with a multitude of wildlife in the area.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto, the British-Australian multinational metals and mining corporation based in London, is undertaking a strategic review of its shareholding in Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd. of Vancouver, British Columbia. Rio Tinto announced in late December that it would consider whether the Pebble project fits with its strategy of investing. Northern Dynasty recently acquired interests of its former project partner, Anglo American (US) Pebble LLC, in the mine, and is seeking new investors.
Still to come is the final U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report its Bristol Bay watershed assessment. The most recent comments about the Bristol Bay draft watershed assessment are online at