Trumps at odds over Alaska’s Pebble Mine

Published on
August 6, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., broke with his father earlier this week to speak out against Pebble Mine, a proposed gold and copper mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

In a rare split with the president, Trump Jr. retweeted a message from Nick Ayers, a former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, that directly called on his father to instruct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block Pebble Mine permits.

In Trump Jr.’s own remarks attached to the Ayers’ retweet, he referred to himself as a “sportsmen who has spent plenty of time in [Bristol Bay].”

“The headwaters of Bristol Bay and surrounding area are too fragile and unique to take any chances with. #PebbleMine”, Trump Jr.’s tweet said.

The New York Times reported Trump Jr. attended his brother Eric Trump’s bachelor party at a fishing lodge along Bristol Bay’s Naknek River in 2014, and that he is a member of Trout Unlimited, a non-profit dedicated to preserving fishing habitat.

“Sportsmen and women have been saying what Trump Jr. said today for the better part of two decades. As Bristol Bay sits atop the bucket list of hunters and anglers from across the country and around the world, the region is too unique to risk by building a massive open-pit mine in the headwaters of the planet’s most important salmon producing region,” Trout Unlimited said on its website.

Opponents to the mine, including U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), applauded Trump Jr.’s comments.

“I’m glad to see at least one Trump believes the mine is too risky. The science is clear – you can’t put a gold and copper mine on top of the most productive salmon run in the world and not have substantial and permanent damage. Salmon and mining simply do not mix,” Cantwell said in a press release. “The construction and operation of the Pebble Mine would have devastating impacts on salmon habitat, salmon populations, the Alaska Native communities that rely on subsistence fisheries, as well as the broader USD 1.5 billion [EUR 1.3 billion] commercial and recreational sockeye salmon fishery. Let’s prevent this disaster before it happens. I urge the EPA to follow the science, protect our fishermen, and use their authority under the Clean Water Act stop the Pebble Mine for good.”

Resistance to the mine has heated up after the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Final Environmental Impact Statement was published in the Federal Registry on 24 July, opening the door for a possible approval of permits in late August.

Native groups, commercial and sport fisherman, and conservationists have been fighting the proposed mine for nearly two decades in Bristol Bay, saying it would harm the world’s most robust and lucrative sockeye salmon fishery, which supports some 15,000 jobs. The Obama administration stopped the project in 2014 after an EPA ruling that the mine would cause loss of fish habitat in the massive southwestern Alaska watershed. But the mine has been revived under a resource extraction-friendly Trump administration, and the application from the Pebble Limited Partnership appears to be on a fast track for approval prior to the upcoming presidential on 3 November.

The New York Times reported that when asked about his son’s tweet on Wednesday, 5 August, President Trump said he would look at both sides of the issue before issuing an opinion.

Photo courtesy of Mark Reinstein/Shutterstock

Contributing Editor reporting from Seattle, USA

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