Last fall in the Grinder, we highlighted the high-volume debate in Alaska over a proposed massive gold mine in the hills that empty out into Bristol Bay, a remarkable fishery that the New York Times says “produces about half of the wild salmon sold in North America.” The battle over the Pebble Mine has pitted gold against salmon, and it led to Tuesday’s referendum in Alaska over whether to strengthen protections for waters in which salmon breed and swim: Specifically, the initiative would have forbid toxic mine residue in such streams. The Times described it as “a chance to save one of the last healthy wild salmon populations left.”
Well, the votes are counted, and gold won. The initiative’s supporters say the legislation was demonized by industry, which spent possibly as much as $15 million arguing that the new law would shut down all mining in Alaska. The vote’s clearly a setback for the fishery, but even the mining company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, admits that the environmental battle over Pebble Mine is far from over.