Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, came out firmly this past week in opposition to the proposed Pebble mine. She told the Alaska Federation of Natives during their annual convention, which was held virtually this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that it is was simply” the wrong mine in the wrong place,” and that it should not be permitted as currently proposed.
Advocates of the mine maintain that it can be built in a way that will not have an adverse impact on the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon into Bristol Bay, and also boost the area’s economy considerably, as well as state coffers. Opponents are skeptical of the project, whose construction alone would result in the loss of over 2,800 acres of wetlands and nearly 130 miles of salmon streams.
Murkowski said she has been clear that she opposes the project and that she intends to continue monitoring the situation closely. “I recognize the need for new economic development in Southwest Alaska,” she said. “I think we all do, but I simply think this is the wrong mine in the wrong place. But while we may have stopped Pebble today, I think now is the time to start thinking about the future. We need longer-term protections for the region that can also provide enduring value for Alaskans,” she said.
Her comments drew praise from Neili Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited, who thanked the senator for her commitment to advancing specific actions to safeguard the long-term health of the region.
SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol also applauded Murkowski’s stand on Pebble, in the wake of release of “the Pebble tapes” by investigators for a Washington DC based group who posed as potential investors in the mining project. Former Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier boasted in those video tapes about the close relationship of mine backers with federal and state government officials. He resigned shortly after the tapes went viral on the Internet and was replaced by John Shively.
Shively issued a statement saying that much of the content of those tapes was “boastful, embellished, insensitive and stretched credulity to its breaking point.” Meanwhile the Pebble Partnership is continuing to pursue construction of the mine.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which released a final environmental impact statement favorable to proceeding with the mine, is currently working on its final record of decision.