Opponents of Alaska's Bristol Bay gold mine continue their battle

Indigenous Alaskans fear the Pebble Mine will go ahead despite Anglo American pulling out of the development last month

Opponents of the development of the world's largest gold mine, in Alaska's Bristol Bay, have said they will continue to fight the project.

A spokesman for indigenous Alaskans said there is still a danger that the Pebble Mine would go ahead despite British mining company Anglo American pulling out of the development last month. Ron Thiessen, CEO of the Northern Dynasty Minerals, the remaining developer, has issued a statement saying the plans for the mine would continue.

The controversial Pebble Mine project would see the opening of vast open-pit gold and copper mines along tundra located 200 miles south-west of Anchorage.

Environmentalists and residents have fiercely opposed the plans, saying the mine would pollute the surrounding area, threatening the 30 to 40 million sockeye salmon that come to the bay each year. Indigenous Alaskan populations in the region rely on the salmon for food.

Speaking at the first UK screening of We Can't Eat Gold, a documentary showing how the development would affect native Alaskans, campaigner Bobby Andrew said it was good news that Anglo American had pulled out of the project.

But Andrew, a fisherman and spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai, an association of eight Alaska Native village corporations in Bristol Bay, said it was likely that Northern Dynasty Minerals would find alternative investors to fill the funding gap.

He called on UK company Rio Tinto – a shareholder in Northern Dynasty Minerals – to pull out of the project as well.

Andrew, who has campaigned against the project for 10 years, said: "We aren't going to stop at this point even if Anglo American has pulled out. The main site is a very important area for salmon and we have to continue to work against the Pebble Mine project.

"As long as Northern Dynasty Minerals are looking for other investors worldwide, there is still a chance of them finding another partner company that will come in and make the largest North American open-pit mine in our region.

"We have to make sure salmon resources are available for future generations."

Andrew said the mine's exploration phase has already dislocated king salmon and caribou populations that many villages rely on for survival.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently making an assessment of the potential environmental risks posed by the development, which it plans to complete before the end of the year.

A previous EPA study published earlier this year suggested the mine could destroy 100 miles of streams and 4,800 acres of wetlands in the Bristol Bay region.

Andrew, who lobbied the EPA to conduct the review, said native Alaskan groups would continue to make their voices heard during the public consultation after the latest report is published.


Mark Riley Cardwell

The GuardianTramp

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