Donald Trump, environmentalist
Alaska's Pebble Mine is a world-class deposit of copper and gold, and its enormous wealth would justify a billion dollars' worth of environmental protections. Such precautions might allow responsible development of these ores, but in the case of Pebble, other considerations come into play.
Pebble happens to have the misfortune of being smack-dab in the middle of the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world's premiere salmon fishery. The road necessary for development would run along the pristine northern shore of Lake Iliamna, the largest lake in Alaska and the third largest entirely in the United States. Iliamna is home to not only bountiful stocks of salmon and grayling, but big rainbow trout, reaching 28" in size. It is a sportsman's paradise and was home to Alaska's fourth governor, Jay Hammond, and his wife Bella.
There's plenty of gold and copper elsewhere in North America. Pebble does contain significant amounts of the rare earth minerals palladium and rhenium, but we are not reliant on China for these valuable minerals. Chile is the source of most of the world's rhenium, and major palladium deposits are in South Africa, Montana, and Ontario. The development of Pebble is not a national necessity.
This is especially true when compared with other prospects in Alaska. The great Alaskan peninsula of North America was formed by the collision of various tectonic plates, hundreds of millions of years ago. These collisions spawned eruptions of minerals from the earth's core, and much of Alaska is heavily mineralized.
The most promising mineral prospect in Alaska is the Ambler mining district, in the northwest of the state. Here are abundant signs of gold, copper, silver, molybdenum, and all the critical rare earths. President Trump is actively supporting this development, and the 212-mile Ambler Access road is well along in the planning process. Environmental groups have filed suit to halt this road but will have a hard time preventing it.
Pebble lies within the jurisdiction of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, which is staunchly opposed to it. Ambler is within the boundaries of the NANA Native Corporation, and the Alaska Natives of NANA will be partners with the mining companies in Ambler. Also within the NANA region is Red Dog, the largest zinc mine in the world, which has operated safely for 36 years. NANA and its shareholders benefit from this mine both financially and in employment. Red Dog is the model for Ambler.
The president's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., a sportsman, is urging his father to oppose Pebble and may very well succeed. The president is all for resource development and exploiting the great natural wealth of this country.
But not everywhere, and under every circumstance. Pebble may be one of the exceptions.
Fritz Pettyjohn fished and hunted in Alaska for over 30 years.