Open-pit Mining Threatens Bristol Bay

The US EPA is considering allowing Pebble Mine to operate in Bristol Bay.

The sheer number of birds in Bristol Bay, Alaska is staggering. An estimated 8-13 million pelagic seabirds forage in Bristol Bay. More than one million seabirds such as Tufted Puffins nest in the region. Up to 75,000 threatened Steller's Eiders use this area. Shorebirds, ducks, geese, and countless other birds flock to forage, rest, and breed in this astounding marine ecosystem. The region is also teeming with tens of millions of salmon, which provide a foundation for both the local economy and the bird life.

Despite Bristol Bay’s immense ecological value, Scott Pruitt and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are considering undoing Obama-era protections in the region in order to potentially allow Pebble Mine, an open-pit copper and gold mine, to operate in the area.

In 2014, President Obama proposed proactively protecting the Bristol Bay watersheds using a provision in the Clean Water Act, Section 404(c). In order to pave the way for Pebble Mine, the EPA would first have to undo President Obama’s proposed 404(c) protections. After that, the agency would have to go through an environmental review process before it could allow Pebble Mine to begin operations.

In order to accomplish the first task (undoing President Obama’s proposed 404(c) Clean Water Act determination), the EPA is undergoing a 90-day comment period and taking comments from the public on either protecting Bristol Bay or opening the door to potentially allow open-pit mines like Pebble Mine. Take Action: Submit a public comment here.

Pebble Mine would wreak havoc on the plants and animals located within the watersheds that flow like arteries into Bristol Bay. Over time, dams inevitably fail, and the resulting tailings spill would destroy the very foundation of Bristol Bay’s food web. The ripple effect to birds, salmon, and human communities would be an ecological disaster of immense proportions. Large-scale open-pit mines simply do not belong in the landscape surrounding Bristol Bay.

Download our Fact Sheet to learn more about Bristol Bay.

Read more about the science supporting Bristol Bay protections in Audubon's 2012 comment letter.

How you can help, right now