By John Copp of Portland, Oregon. John is a Portland-based commercial fisherman who has fished Bristol Bay in Alaska for the past thirty years.
A monster stalks the tundra in remote Southwestern Alaska. Voracious and poisonous to every living thing it touches, it is so huge that future astronauts will be able to see it from the moon.
I'm talking about Pebble Mine, a gigantic hole in the Earth that foreign companies want to create at the headwaters to Bristol Bay, the greatest sockeye salmon run left on this planet.
Bristol Bay is a world-class refuge. Refuge for Brown Bear, moose, caribou, walruses, and seals. Refuge for sixteen species of whales. And as the World Wildlife Fund says "nowhere else on Earth is so important to so many birds from so many different continents."
As such, it is critical to the over 500 Oregon commercial fishermen, pilots, operators, and sportfishing guides travel to Bristol Bay each summer for work. Our local grocers sell wild Bristol Bay sockeye, and chefs demand it for its quality. Oregon boat builders like Clackcraft, Koffler, and Willies rely on Alaska’s fishery to sell their Oregon designed boats. We rely on this rich ecosystem to support our way of life, and in turn, we recognize we’re all in this together.
Open-pit mines like the proposed Pebble Mine pose countless risks. Perhaps the biggest are the tailing dams. A hard rock mine like Pebble generates more waste in a single year then do many industries as a whole. The bulk of it is in the form of tailings, material too toxic and dangerous to be released into the world. The tailings from Pebble Mine will cover 10 square miles and must be stored forever behind earthen dams.
Tailings dams have been failing since 1919, producing loss of life, massive property damage, and irreversible pollution of earth and water. Worldwide, 2 tailings dams fail each year. The largest so far was 80 million metric tonnes spilled from a copper mine in the Philippines.
If Pebble's tailings dams break, there will be no place to hide. Millions of tons of toxin-filled water will rush into Bristol Bay then to the wider Bering Sea beyond.
The mining companies claim that Pebble Mine can coexist with the Bristol Bay wilderness. That myth ignores the vast infrastructure required to support the biggest open-pit mine ever built in North American. That discounts the hundreds of miles of mining roads, the fleet of huge trucks and bulldozers, the thousands of tons of explosives that will be detonated, the billions of tons of churned up tundra, the huge electrical plant that will be built, the vast ore processing facilities, the massive tunnels required to move the metal concentrates to ships waiting in the yet-to-be-built giant port. It ignores billions of gallons of toxic waste. It ignores the acid drainage that flows from every single open-pit mine ever built.
There is no middle ground in this war. There is no compromise. There is no rationale choice but to save Bristol Bay from Pebble Mine. There is no higher wisdom than to grant permanent refuge to Bristol Bay, its pristine waters, its wild salmon, whales, seabirds, caribou, Brown bears, wolves, and all the rest of its unique and diverse faunal assemblage. And yes, to the thousands of commercial fishermen like me who risk life and limb to bring the world crab, herring, and salmon.
In the end Godzilla is no match for the human heroes who through ingenuity and audacity are able to defeat this seemingly impossible beast. Across this country, countless people like myself are standing up to say no to Pebble Mine and the havoc it will wreak. Now is that critical moment where it is up to you and people like you to stand up with us. Don’t give up this fight, together we can beat Godzilla.