Pebble Mine Response from Senator Cantwell

I received this email today regarding my letter to support efforts to stop the pebble mine in Alaska.

If you haven’t done so already, please show your support by going to:




Dear Mrs. Schweitzer,

Thank you for contacting me about the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter and sincerely regret the delayed response.

As you know, the Pebble Mine is a massive mineral exploration project proposed for the Bristol Bay region in Alaska. Currently, this project is under consideration for development by Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, Ltd. According to the company review of the proposed mine site, fully mining the copper, gold, molybdenum, and other metals would produce over seven billion tons of waste rock, a toxic mix of arsenic and other chemicals that would be deposited in massive new artificial lakes. Seepage into the groundwater could adversely impact the Bristol Bay watershed, which is the main outflow for the rivers and streams in the proposed mine area. Contaminated water and industrial mining activities would threaten the pristine local environment and the diverse marine and terrestrial life that depend on it.

Of particular concern are the potential impacts to the wild and healthy salmon populations that thrive in the watershed. Bristol Bay is one of the most productive salmon runs in the world, generating a total value of $674 million each year in the Pacific Northwest and $1.5 billion in total value. Bristol Bay salmon support as many as 12,000 seasonal jobs and 6,000 full-time jobs in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands of Washington state jobs, including seafood processing and the restaurant and shipbuilding industry, depend on healthy, sustainable salmon populations.

I have been in regular contact with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Obama Administration regarding the mine’s potential impact to Washington state fishing jobs.

The EPA has the authority, under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, to restrict, prohibit, deny, or withdraw the use of a water body as a disposal site for dredged or fill material – such as mining and other waste – if it determines the discharge will have unacceptable adverse impacts on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational areas.

When the EPA released its final draft of its Watershed Assessment on January 15, 2014, its scientific assessment was clear: the proposed Pebble Mine poses a direct threat to Bristol Bay salmon and the Pacific Northwest jobs that depend on them. The report specifically states that the mine would destroy up to 94 miles of salmon streams, and 1,300-5,350 acres of wetlands would be destroyed as a part of normal mining operations. Plus, the report details many more potential catastrophic impacts in the event of a mine failure.


That is why, on January 23, 2014, I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to use his authority under the Clean Water Act to prevent the construction of the Pebble Mine. I will continue to fight to protect Washington and Alaska fishing jobs, clean water and the way of life for Alaska Native populations. President Obama and the EPA need to use the authority under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay salmon, and the Northwest fishing economy that depends on them.


Over the past three years, I have worked hard to ensure science is used to determine future actions in Bristol Bay. That is why, I wrote to Administrator Jackson on September 12, 2011, to express my support for the EPA’s decision to conduct a thorough scientific analysis of the effect a large-scale development project would have on the Bristol Bay watershed. The EPA released a draft scientific study in May 2012 that found that the construction of the mine would result in the loss of dozens of miles of streams that are used for salmon spawning and thousands of acres of wetlands. Based on this study, I wrote again to Administrator Jackson on May 30, 2012, pressing the agency to take the study further, and incorporate economic data in the report. I asked specifically how the impact or loss of the sockeye salmon fishery would impact Washington State fishing jobs.

I also joined with four other senators, Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in sending an additional letter to President Barack Obama on June 10, 2013, urging him to support the EPA and protect wild salmon and the commercial fishing industry in Washington and Alaska.

Throughout this process, I have felt it is important to give stakeholders in our region a chance to voice their concerns firsthand. To that end, on May 9, 2012, I wrote a letter to Administrator Jackson requesting an opportunity for our fishermen and other concerned parties to provide input at a public forum in Washington state. As a result, the EPA agreed, and held a public hearing in Seattle last year.

I have also noticed some contradictory information from the Canadian company proposing to construct the mine, Northern Dynasty Minerals. In February of 2011, the company submitted a report to the SEC called the “Wardrop Report.” The report was used by the EPA to calculate the potential impacts the mine would have on Bristol Bay Salmon in the Draft Watershed Assesment. In the report, the company told the SEC that the proposed mine design and specifications were both feasible and permittable. The company later testified before the EPA that the data from the report was a “fantasy proposal.” I sent a letter to the SEC on March 18, 2013, requesting that the agency investigate these discrepancies.

Thank you again for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

For future correspondence with my office, please visit my website at

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