Alaska’s Water Wars: Stories from Bristol Bay is a timely, five-minute, 5-part series focused on the proposed Pebble Mine near Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
Alaska’s Bristol Bay is home to one of the most valuable salmon fisheries in the world. It’s also a place where a company has been wanting to build an open-pit copper and gold mine for years. The Obama administration proposed limits for Pebble Mine to protect water. President Donald Trump’s EPA could roll those back and make the mine a reality. Complicating matters, the Alaska Native people who live there are divided on whether the mine should go ahead.
Alaska Water Wars is a multimedia project that shares the stories of Alaska Native people as they navigate the benefits and risks posed by new natural resource development projects coming to their regions.
This series about the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay comes to us from Independent producer Daysha Eaton in Anchorage, Alaska. Financial support for this reporting was provided by the Alaska Humanities Forum and KNBA public radio.
Part 1: President Donald Trump’s EPA may make it easier for a Canadian mining company to get permits it needs to build a large copper and gold mine on top of wetlands that feed one of the world’s richest salmon fisheries in Southwest Alaska. But some local and indigenous people are resisting the project because of concerns it could ruin their fishing and way of life. At the center of it all is water.
Part 2: The Canadian mining company is looking for new investors and says it plans to apply for permits to build a copper and gold mine in the Bristol Bay region soon. But some local and indigenous people say the EPA was right to put limitations on the mine, under the Obama administration. Tribes connected to commercial fisheries in particular worry that allowing the mine to get a foothold in the area could spell disaster.
Part 3: Thousands of local and indigenous people in the Bristol Bay region are divided on the issue of the proposed Pebble Mine. While commercial fishing towns are united against mining, villages closer to the mine site are interested in the economic development it could bring. However, many also worry that the industry could pollute their pristine rivers as well as change their communities beyond recognition.
Part 4: Despite concerns about possible impacts to water quality, some local and indigenous communities very close to the proposed Pebble Mine say they want the jobs that mining could bring. Those communities don’t benefit as much from the commercial fishing industry and some say they want employment that will allow them to stay in their Native villages with a higher standard of living.
Part 5: The mining company insists that its new plan takes every precaution to protect water, but many local and indigenous people who live in villages midway between the proposed mine and Bristol Bay are skeptical. They rely heavily on subsistence salmon fishing for food and say the water that’s at risk is a cultural resource with which they’re not willing to gamble. They want the EPA to stick with limits it proposed on mining in 2014 and some are vowing to fight the mine no matter what.