Bristol Bay Pebble Deposit

The Environmental & Energy Law Program is tracking the environmental regulatory rollbacks of the Trump administration. Click here for the list of rules we are following

Why it Matters

Bristol Bay watershed, located in Southwestern Alaska, is home to some of the world’s largest runs of wild salmon, including the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. The watershed’s aquatic habitats support sport and commercial fishing, providing significant economic benefits and employment opportunities to the region. In addition, many Alaska Natives live near Bristol Bay and rely on its natural resources to maintain a subsistence-based lifestyle.

The Pebble deposit, which contains large amounts of copper, gold, and molybdenum, is located within the watershed. Pebble Limited Partnership has proposed plans to build a large open pit mine at the Pebble deposit. Mining the Pebble deposit would result in discharge material being released into and polluting the Bristol Bay watershed, including the same streams and wetlands that support salmon and other fish species.

Because of the potential adverse effects of mining the Pebble deposit, EPA issued a proposed determination for the area. A determination, authorized under the Clean Water Act, permits EPA to restrict the usage of certain waters as disposal sites for mining activities. Additionally, during the determination proposal and review process, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue a mining discharge permit for the Pebble deposit. If finalized, the determination would establish prohibitions and restrictions on mining in certain protected areas of the Bristol Bay Watershed.

Current Status

On January 5, 2018 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it had accepted an application from Pebble Limited Partnership for a proposed mining operation and that an “environmental impact statement level of analysis will be required.” On March 29, 2018 the Corps published a Notice of Intent to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Pebble proposal. Environmental groups accused the Corps of fast-tracking the process, based on an unusually low number of public hearings, a truncated timeline, and other factors. The Notice was open for public comment until June 29, 2018.

Click here learn more about the history of this rule and actions that have been taken on it by the Trump Administration.


Thank you to Harvard student Laura Bloomer, JD/MPP 2019 for her assistance with this rule. 

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