This week, British mining giant Anglo American, the lead company behind the potentially catastrophic Pebble Mine, announced that it was throwing in the towel on the project immediately.
This is spectacular, game-changing news for our long, hard-fought campaign against a mega-mine that threatens to destroy an American natural treasure: Alaska’s beautiful Bristol Bay.
The corporate giant had reportedly sunk more than $500 million into the Pebble Mine, a massive gold and copper operation that would produce some 10 billion tons of contaminated waste and threaten the greatest wild salmon runs on the planet.
For years the company asked us to believe that it could gouge a vast and toxic open pit out of the Bristol Bay wilderness without turning it into the kind of dead zone that surrounds other major copper mines. Now it wants out, and it is willing to write down losses of $300 million to do it.
What changed? Anglo American, like Mitsubishi before it, came to its senses and realized that the Pebble Mine is a financial and environmental disaster waiting to happen.
Of course it helped mightily that local communities, Native groups and fishermen have opposed the mine courageously and tirelessly; that thousands of online activists stood shoulder to shoulder with them by deluging Anglo American with nearly one million messages of protest; that Robert Redford took NRDC’s campaign to the national and international stage (he was cited by more than 50 news outlets the day the announcement was made); that EPA scientists found the mine posed “catastrophic” risks; and that more than 600,000 Americans pressured EPA this year to stop the mine.
Just last April, we hand-delivered 200,000 messages from NRDC activists to Anglo American’s new CEO, Mark Cutifani, calling on him to break with his predecessors and chart a new course by abandoning plans for the Pebble Mine.
Now he has done just that, by pulling the plug on a terrible investment with astronomical risks. As a direct result, every American who loves and cherishes our natural heritage can breathe a little easier tonight.
Every environmentalist should feel profound pride in the fight we have waged against a horrific project that, until recently, was considered all but unstoppable. Simply put, I have never been more inspired by our collective power to make a difference.
So does Anglo’s exit mean the Pebble Mine is dead? No. It may be on life support, but there are ways it could be revived in a hurry.
Anglo American’s partner in the Pebble Mine–Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company–must now go it alone in trying to push through the controversial project. It’s unlikely that Northern Dynasty can put the massive mine into production without major funding from another giant partner like Anglo American.
Northern Dynasty has already made it clear that it’s actively looking for new funding partners. That means we must go all out to make sure that other mining giants are not tempted to make the same bad bet that Mitsubishi and Anglo American made. We must also keep the pressure on Rio Tinto, another global player which now owns nearly a 20 percent stake in Northern Dynasty.
Above all, we absolutely must protect Bristol Bay forever, by making sure the EPA uses its power under the Clean Water Act to ban large-scale mining in an American Eden, where both human and wildlife communities depend on the annual miracle of 40 million returning salmon.
This battle is not over, but it sure feels like the tide is turning!
We can’t walk away from this fight until it’s truly won, and we won’t. It’s critically important that the environmental community stands together until we reach our final goal: the permanent protection of the awe-inspiring Bristol Bay and the certainty it will never be destroyed to enrich a handful of mining corporations.
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Photo Credit: NRDC