During my six years in Alaska from 2004 through 2010, by far the most protracted and controversial of many simmering resource development battles was the fight over the so-called Pebble Mine. This area is upriver from Lake Iliamna, a short plane ride west of Anchorage. The proposed copper and molybdenum mine is touted as holding some of the world’s largest deposits of copper. But building it would also create a massive open pit operation in the headwaters to one of the world’s most productive sockeye fish hatcheries, and were a spill to occur, the consequences would likely be devastating to the fishery. The battle was heated, dividing even mostly resource-friendly Republicans like former Sen. Ted Stevens (who spoke out against it during my time there), mainly because of the incredibly rich fishing resources downstream that provided good jobs to many Native communities with a renewable resource (tasty sockeye salmon).
I will not get into the debate, which embraced the vitriol and emotion I associated with the “War on Terror” and the “with us or against us” mentality that coincided during my years in Alaska. Regardless of what I say, this project has seen two of the world’s largest mining companies, Anglo American and Rio Tinto, walk away from their stakes during the last year, leaving the remaining company called Pebble Partnership high and dry, without the major financial backing it needs to pull this off. I think the science strongly shows this is not the place to build such a huge mine. Regardless of my opinion, without big money, big mines cannot be developed. And the U.S. EPA is against it. These pictures were taken during my site visit there in 2005, when I worked in Anchorage. I hope these pictures provide a window into one of the hottest battles ever seen in the 49th state. (Note, all pictures were taken with my consumer-grade Canon digital camera–not bad for the tough little workhorse.)