After Donald Trump Jr. launched the controversial Pebble Mine back into national politics, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced over the weekend that he would block the project if elected.
In a statement, Biden said that he would revive Obama-era protections that effectively halted the mine, following comments that he also opposes plans to mine uranium near the Grand Canyon. It’s the same call that Trump Jr. and other conservative sportsmen called for last week.
Bristol Bay has been foundational to the way of life of Alaska Natives for countless generations, provides incredible joy for recreational anglers from across the country, and is an economic powerhouse that supplies half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon. It is no place for a mine,” Biden wrote. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”
The Pebble Mine project got a boost in 2019, following a meeting between Gov. Mike Dunleavy and President Donald Trump on Air Force One, according to a CNN investigation. CNN also found that despite vowed partiality to the project, Dunleavy and others had been closely coached by Pebble Mine officials.
Biden makes no mention of Dunleavy but references the politically loaded process to usher the controversial project through.
“The only reason we are still debating whether Pebble Mine should move forward is because hours after former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt met with a mining executive behind closed doors, the Trump Administration reversed our thoughtful decision,” Biden said. “Now, Alaskan culture, traditions, and jobs are on the line. As President, I will do what President Trump has failed to do: listen to the scientists and experts to protect Bristol Bay — and all it offers to Alaska, our country, and the world.”
The news of Biden’s opposition to the mine was welcome news for Alaskan opponents of the project, who noted that it shows bipartisan opposition to the project that could threaten the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
“Our tribes really appreciate Vice President Biden’s commitment to stopping the Pebble Mine,” said Alannah Hurley, the executive director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of tribes opposed to the mine. “The bipartisan support for protecting Bristol Bay from this toxic project just confirms what as Native people have always known: Bristol Bay is invaluable to the globe. In a time of great upheaval in this country, we are heartened by the strong support across the nation to protect our people, our fisheries, and our economy from the toxic Pebble Mine. It’s time to end this toxic project.”
Officials with the company pushing for Pebble called Biden’s statement a political ploy for election season.
Trump, for his part, said he would hear from both sides on the project following his son’s calls for intervention.
Pebble Mine has also been a growing focus in the Alaska’s race for U.S. Senate between U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Democrat-backed independent Al Gross.
Gross has called on Sullivan to oppose the mine and return campaign contributions from anyone involved in the project, continuing the effort to pin Sullivan to all things Trump: “Yes-Man Dan Sullivan still refuses to stand up to Donald Trump, even if it’s at the cost of his own constituents and his own state.”
Sullivan has made few public comments about the mine following the release of the Army Corps of Engineers final environmental impact statement. Sullivan last week told the Anchorage Daily News that he’s still in the process of reviewing the document nearly a month after its release but that he’s concerned.
“I am increasingly concerned that (the final review) may not adequately address the issues identified in the draft (review) regarding the full risks of the project as proposed to the Bristol Bay watershed and fishery,” he said.