Alaska’s Republican Party has endorsed developing the Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. The controversial gold and copper mine has divided Alaskans across party lines for more than a decade.
A resolution passed August 9 by the state’s central committee earlier this month says the mine would create more than 1,000 jobs, contribute to the state coffers and benefit Alaskans in what it describes as an otherwise impoverished area.
“The Republican Party has always been in favor of responsibly developing mines throughout Alaska,” Alaska Republican Party Chair Glenn Clary told CoastAlaska on Tuesday. “And we would support the responsible development of Pebble Mine.”
He says the party canvassed its district leadership across the state.
“There’s 88 people on the state Central Committee, and they represent all areas and regions of Alaska,” he added. “And so this was sent out to all of them to vote on it and to debate on it.”
Not all Alaska Republicans are on board. Sen. Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) represents a wide swathe of coastal Alaska.
“It seems to me that that’s sort of a consensus of urban Republicans, but it certainly does not represent the attitude of my Senate District,” Stevens said on Tuesday.
He says the pro-Pebble endorsement reflects the state Republican party leadership, not elected Republicans like himself.
“As a lifelong Republican, I generally support the GOP,” Stevens added. “But their position — the central committee’s position — on Pebble Mine is something I cannot support.”
He says the prospect of developing an open pit gold and copper mine at one of the largest salmon producing systems in the world risks trading one resource for another.
“The problem with Pebble is if there’s even a minor mistake, any release from their holding pools, it could destroy one of the major salmon streams in our in our country,” Stevens said. “Just taking such a chance, it seems to me it’s just not worth it.”
This summer the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a final environmental impact statement that concluded Pebble Mine wouldn’t harm salmon runs. That’s a reversal from the Obama administration’s EPA which had blocked the mine in 2014. A final decision is expected within weeks or months.
The Alaska Republican Party’s resolution says it “unequivocally” supports Pebble Mine and calls on the Army Corps to move forward and approve it.