Pebble Protests Continue as USACE Weighs In

There were new developments this past week in the controversy over the proposed Pebble mine in the Bristol Bay watershed of Southwest Alaska.

The US Army Corps of Engineers, having extended its comment period on scoping for an environmental impact statement on the Pebble Limited Partnership’s (PLP) permit application, was accepting written comment only in Anchorage on April 19. Meanwhile, outside of the city’s convention center, some 200 opponents of the mine heard speakers, including former Alaska State Senate President Rick Halford, who asked “what part of ‘no’ don’t they understand? Twelve, 14 years of saying ‘no’, ‘no’ to foreign companies, ‘no’ to the developers and “no’ to the Corps of Engineers.”

The PLP maintains that the mine can be built and operated in Bristol Bay in harmony with the waterways that provide critical habitat to the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon. “This is scoping, which is an identification process, not the time for opinions,” said the PLP’s Mike Heatwole in a written statement.

The Corps says it is seeking information to help inform the scope of their analysis as it specifically relates to the PLP’s permit application, including potentially affected resources, alternative options, analytical methodology and potential mitigation measures.

The permit application is online at

Earlier this month, nearly 200 residents of Bristol Bay turned out in Naknek, Kokhanok, Igiugig, and New Stuyahok to offer public testimony in opposition to the mine. During its stop in Dillingham, where the Corps accepted only written testimony, Robert Heyano, president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, told the crowd that “the only acceptable alternative is no Pebble.”

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker meanwhile issued a permit for the PLP to conduct activities on its mining claims during the 2018 field season. In a separate action, Walker re-established the Bristol Bay Advisory group, which he said “gives local residents a powerful tool to guide land and resource management in their region.” Walker noted that Bristol Bay supports the most productive wild sockeye fishery in the world, adding “we should continue to protect that resource, which has sustained the region for generations.”