World Conservation Congress endorses Bristol Bay protections

An international conservation group meeting in Honolulu for the World Conservation Congress has passed a motion urging protection of Bristol Bay from the proposed Pebble mine and other large-scale mining.

The action came on Aug. 31 as members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature voted to safeguard the habitat of the world largest sockeye salmon fishery from adverse impacts of mining.

The controversy over construction of the proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine by the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary Hunter Dickinson, a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia, began over a decade ago. The matter is still in litigation, with Hunter Dickinson subsidiary Northern Dynasty now seeking a new long-term investment partner for the mine. Mine opponents meanwhile gathering increasing support to keep the mine out of Bristol Bay.

Kim Williams, executive director of Nunamta Aulkestai (Caretakers of the Land), and Alana Hurley of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, were scheduled to speak on Sept. 9 at a reception during the Congress hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the authors of the motion in support of Bristol Bay.

“It’s amazing how far the people of this region, in partnership with our coalition, have reached out to the world to tell people this is a unique place in the world that should not have a large scale mine like Pebble,” Williams said.

“We are opposed to Pebble,” she said. “We have not changed our minds. We have become more solidified as the mining industry has mishap after mishap. We cannot hae that in Bristol Bay, especially when we have such a huge resource that is sustainable and renewable.

According to the latest preliminary Alaska salmon harvest reports compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the commercial harvest of sockeye salmon alone in Bristol Bay this summer exceeded 37.6 million fish.

“With the definitive action today by the world Conservation Congress, the momentum to stop the uniquely dangerous Pebble mine continues to grow, said Joel Reynolds, western director for NRDC. “Pebble mine is a recipe for catastrophic contamination of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery, and today’s action reflects an international scientific consensus that it must be stopped.”

“We already face the threats of climate change,” Williams said. “Foreign corporations should not be able to subject us, our watershed, or our salmon to the catastrophic threats of large-scale mining as well.”
Williams thanks the IUCN “for focusing attention on the need to balance the needs of indigenous people and development and for voting to protect Bristol Bay.”