I have been lucky enough during my few years as a human to travel through remote parts of this wild planet. North to South, on foot or by plane, I have seen firsthand how nations have either protected the land they possess or stomp it into the ground. My favorite trip of all time took place this last spring of 2013 on a road trip from California, through Canada and into Alaska. To say the least, it was a humbling trip to witness the vast expanse of untouched land I only dreamed of getting lost in. I have always been one to question and act upon what humanity can do to protect what is left of our last frontiers, and this 3000 mile road trip north brought it all into perspective. One of our goals along this journey was to ask questions, educate ourselves and raise awareness about a proposed mineral mine that sits on some of Earth’s most pristine regions. In order to preserve untouched and pure land in Bristol Bay, AK, the construction of an open-pit mineral deposit known as Pebble Mine needs to be put to a halt. This mine has potential to negatively affect the local ecosystem, including the largest salmon fishery in the world, which will also affect the long-term sustainability of the current ecosystem and environment as well as the residents.
Bristol Bay is located in Southwest Alaska about 200 miles west from Anchorage, AK as the bird flies. This unique area sits on the outside of the 400-mile Alaskan peninsula which separates it and protects the Gulf of Alaska (“Bristol Bay, Alaska”). This area is one of the world’s last wild frontiers. There are still uncharted territories and among the wild land are small villages that are inhabited by Alaskan Natives. These humans have been settled in Alaska for generations and depend on the land to feed their
families and to generate their power. With the growing demand for renewable resources such as the fisheries, and non-renewable resources such as gas, copper and gold, the local economy is feeling the pressure to not only fight against what they live for but potentially lose the culture they have lived.
In 1988 a mining company named Cominco discovered what they thought was over one billion tons of mineral resources. In 2001, after extensive prospecting and satisfaction that gold had been struck, they sold the mineral rights to Northern Dynasty and by 2007 Northern Dynasty had teamed up for a 50/50 deal with Anglo American. Keep in mind, Rio Tinto who is also a large player in the mining industry, owns 20% of Northern Dynasty. Today after drilling over 1,200 test holes which accumulated over 1,000,000 feet to get mineral samples (Northern Dynasty Minerals), the estimated mineral deposit is
near 11 billion tons and is proposed to be one of the richest deposits in North American history (EPA). Northern Dynasty says that a mine of this size would employ hundreds of local residents and boost the economy for a minimum of 20 years. However, an estimated 300 to 500 billion-dollar deposit with potential to aid a suppressed economy with jobs was not worth Anglo American’s name. In mid-September of 2013, the chief executive officer Mark Cutifani announced that Anglo American would be pulling the plug stating that the company wanted to “prioritize capital to projects with the highest value and lowest risks.” Anglo American had invested 6 years and $541 million into the project (Wieners). If Northern Dynasty is permitted grants and the permission to commence, Pebble is expected be one of the largest open-pit mines ever constructed (Yocom and Bernard). Just in copper and gold deposits, this would consist of 80 billion pounds of copper and 105 million ounces of gold (O’Neal and Woody).
Roughly 9000 years ago, before Russian and European contact with Alaska, the Native culture settled in the Bristol Bay area. It consisted of many natives and tribes including the Yup’iks and Dena’inas (“Regional”). These are among the only native...
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