The Battle for Bristol Bay

The Battle for Bristol Bay

A vote in Alaska may affect the permitting of the Pebble prospect, which could become the largest mine in North America -- and threaten wild salmon.

The New York Times looks into the controversy being waged in Alaska over plans to begin copper and gold mining in the watershed of the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. The proposed Pebble Mine, expected to be the largest open pit mine in North America, would be located 100 miles upriver from Bristol Bay, an area which brings in more than $300 million each year from the fishing industry.

Mine opponents are concerned that unearthing metals could release chemicals toxic to salmon while mine supporters say the benefits to Alaska in jobs and state revenue outweigh those risks. Some 57 percent of the state’s voters rejected in August 2008 a ballot measure aimed at halting the mine. But the decision will ultimately be made by state regulatory officials.

This video includes interviews with fishers, a chief executive officer of a current mining operation, Alaska natives and state officials.

Length: 8:21

Story: William Yardley

Photography : Stuart Isett

Interactive media production: Patrick Farrell