Wednesday December 28, 2022

Alaska Journal of Commerce

The Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 1 moved to deal a major blow to the proposed Pebble mine, a large copper and gold prospect that is located in a salmon-rich Southwest Alaska region and has been hotly contested for more than a decade.

Casey Sixkiller, the administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Northwest region that includes Alaska, recommended the agency stop the mine from being built under a rarely employed agency action called a veto, setting the stage for a final decision from EPA headquarters by February.

The EPA has said the mine if built would be among the world’s biggest open-pit copper mines and would destroy about 100 miles of stream that support salmon habitat, through the release of “dredged or fill material” — essentially rock or gravel — in the mining area. That would cause “unacceptable adverse effects” to fishery areas in a watershed of “unparalleled ecological value,” the agency has said, supporting its special action.

“If affirmed by EPA’s Office of Water during the fourth and final step, this action would help protect salmon fishery areas that support world-class commercial and recreational fisheries, and that have sustained Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, supporting a subsistence-based way of life for one of the last intact wild salmon-based cultures in the world,” Sixkiller said in a statement.

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