Salmon spawning in a river
Bristol Bay is home to one of the last great salmon runs in the world. Menno Schaefer

For now, the long battle to mine copper and gold in southwest Alaska’s Bristol Bay is over. On Wednesday, the Trump administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied Pebble Limited Partnership the permit required to build the Pebble Mine on grounds that, “the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest,” Col. Damon Delarosa, the Corps’ Alaska district commander said to the Anchorage Daily News.

This will probably spell the end for the mine and a nearly three-year review process conducted by multiple agencies. Longtime opponents of the mine say this is a big win for sportsmen and women, as well as for commercial fishermen and the tens of thousands of people whose jobs depend on this region’s clean water.

“We thank the Corps for doing the right thing: blocking a mine that would cause irreversible damage to the Bristol Bay watershed and one of the world’s greatest salmon fisheries,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Now we need to look for permanent solutions that protect this area and the outdoor recreation economy in perpetuity.”

According to the TRCP, the proposed mine could have poisoned Bristol Bay with 10.2 billion tons of toxic waste, subsequently destroying one of the world’s last great salmon fisheries.

“The Corps’ denial of the permit for the Pebble Mine is a victory for common sense,” Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited told the New York Times on Wednesday. “Bristol Bay is the wrong place for industrial-scale mining.”

This is not a permanent end to the fight for Bristol Bay’s clean water. Conservation groups hope that lasting federal protections will be given to the area in the form of an EPA veto.

“The Army Corps of Engineers’ rejection of Pebble Mine’s permit application puts science over politics and is a critical acknowledgment by the administration that this is simply an irresponsible mine in the worst possible place,” says Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Conservation Director, John Gale. “We now call on the Environmental Protection Agency to permanently protect Bristol Bay by using section 404c of the Clean Water Act to veto mining there once and for all.”

We will continue to follow and update this story as it develops.