Several Alaskans from the salmon-dependent Bristol Bay region toured Utah’s Bingham Canyon Mine on Monday for a look at the kind of tourist attraction they hope never to see back home.
They came with a village association, Nunamta Aulukestai, which represents Alaska Native corporations that oppose development of the massive Pebble mineral prospect on a remote and largely roadless mountain area southwest of Anchorage. The headwaters there feed spawning grounds that support commercial and sport fisheries valued at up to half a billion dollars a year...
[Tribal representative Karen] Williams fears Pebble, with an estimated 81 billion pounds of copper and significant gold and molybdenum deposits, could be just as large of an open-pit mine. Its placement, she said, threatens a way of life that includes subsistence fishing.
"Our kitchen is our salmon," she said, "and the caribou and the moose and the birds."
The Pebble Limited Partnership, a group of international mining corporations seeking to build the Alaska mine, disputes the threat to fisheries.
It goes to show that things are usually not entirely as they seem. While Alberta's Rio Tinto might be the Canadian Satan responsible for so much damage here locally, tribal associations in Alaska are smart enough to learn from our mitakes. They are especially smart to worry about fisheries and headwaters, given the damage to local water sources that a Bingham-style mine would do.
Williams, the spokeswoman quoted in the artifle, represens Nunamta Aulukestai, which represents tribal corporations opposed to open pit mining and other environmentally catastrophic development schemes. It goes to show that local, grass-roots organizations can be effective educators as well as sources of activism.