JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said on Sunday that if he’s elected, his administration would stop a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region.
“It is no place for a mine,” the former vice president said in a statement to news media. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”
The Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration proposed restricting development in the Bristol Bay region but never finalized the restrictions. The agency retains the option to invoke that so-called veto process again if it decides to do so.
The mine would be built near headwaters of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. Conservation and local tribal groups say they fear the mine will devastate the fishery.
Biden said the salmon fishery is an economic powerhouse that should be protected for Alaska Natives and fishermen, according to The Anchorage Daily News.
“Bristol Bay is the most important Sockeye Salmon fishery in the world, supporting 13,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in economic activity,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. “Joe Biden understands we cannot afford to risk allowing this pristine ecosystem — which supports 190 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, and 29 species of fish, including all five species of North American pacific salmon — to become a toxic, heavy metal-laden soup.”
An environmental review released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month — and assailed by critics as deficient — stated that under normal operations, the alternatives it looked at “would not be expected to have a measurable effect on fish numbers and result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.”
Mine developer Pebble Limited Partnership has praised the Army Corps’ review as thorough and accurate.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump said he would “listen to both sides” after his eldest son and a campaign adviser urged him to intervene to block the Pebble Mine.
The corps has yet to make a permitting decision. When it does, it could issue a permit, approve a permit with conditions or issue a denial. The project, should it advance, also would face a state permitting process.