Fly Life Magazine

Opinion: As Alaskans consider Pebble Mine, a cautionary tale from Montana

In our state, we live with mining’s other legacy: permanent pollution.

By Steve Luebeck and Rich Day for Juneau Empire

We’re blessed with world-class fishing in our home state of Montana. But as any angler knows, it simply isn’t fair to compare Lower 48 fishing to Alaska fishing. The trout are great here at home. But we go to Alaska for salmon.

Berkeley Pit. A wiki-commons image.

It’s been our good fortune to take a number of fishing trips to Alaska over the years. Yakutat. Kenai. Bristol Bay. These are the scenes for some of our most cherished memories.

Over the years we’ve developed a deep respect and appreciation for Bristol Bay’s world-class salmon runs, and observed the ongoing debate over the proposed Pebble Mine. With the permitting process underway, we feel the need to share our experience with a copper mine of similar size.

The Berkeley Pit abuts the City of Butte on Silver Bow Creek in southwestern Montana, headwaters of the Columbia River’s Clark Fork. It closed in 1982, leaving behind a huge open pit filled with 50 billion gallons of toxic water (for comparison, the current Pebble proposal will create a pit filled with 61 billion gallons).

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