Who cares about the Pebble mine?

I am an environmental activist who opposes open-pit mining in the Illiamna region of Bristol Bay. I write caustic letters to the editor and I attend dull greenie meetings, where I listen to good-hearted folks in various stages of hysteria.

And I find myself asking, why do I care? I don’t own a tourist business and I don’t fish in Bristol Bay. In fact, I probably will never visit the site of the proposed Pebble mine. So what the hell, why do I continue to annoy my friends down at the chamber of commerce — good-hearted folks who just want some decent jobs for their kids?

Perhaps my fervor on this issue stems from the following sentiments expressed in an editorial in the Cheechako News, written in 1961: “We think a time has come for Alaskans when we must readjust our appraisals of the Great Land. We propose that a new policy for the future be implemented based upon the simple assumption that the dominant Alaskan resource is the wilderness itself, and the development of all things in Alaska shall henceforth be pursued only to the end that such developments shall not in any appreciable manner depreciate the wilderness resource.”

Those were bold, if not suicidal words, coming over 50 years ago, from a tiny newspaper in the midst of cash-starved Kenai homesteaders on the cusp of a major oil boom. I believe that they were also profound and amazingly farsighted. No matter whether we pick berries in Tyonek or peck away at computers in downtown Anchorage, Alaskans share one unique bond: the wilderness is our backyard. The world is full of pretty places, but few on the vast scale of our wilderness, which is what makes it truly a wilderness.

Pebble mine promoters promise a sanitary operation which will leave Bristol Bay waters pure and pristine. Whether true or not, this promise evades the absolute certainty that open-pit mines will permanently destroy and degrade a huge area of pristine wilderness. In another 50 years, when the jobs are gone, the bulldozers gone, and the money is gone, our grandchildren and their grandchildren will be left with a moonscape of barren craters. 

And they will wonder “what were they thinking?”

John Rate 

More in News

A diagram presented by Teresa Jacobson Gregory illustrates the proposed extension of the Beachcomber LLC gravel pit and the impact it may have on the surrounding state recreation area. The red markers indicate the current gravel mining area, and the orange represents the area the extension may allow for mining if approved. (Image courtesy of Teresa Jacobson Gregory)
KPB Assembly to consider gravel-pit ordinance revisions

Proposed gravel pit ordinance follows Superior Court ruling that planning commission can deny permits.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School board works to highlight students’ voices

Within the first hour of the meeting students would have up to five minutes each to address the board about any issue

Furniture awaits use in a bedroom at a cold weather shelter set to open next month on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Half of beds at Nikiski shelter are occupied

The shelter opened at the end of December 2021

A group of community members gather together on Thursday, Jan. 6 at WKFL Park to protest the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on the one-year anniversary of the attack. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
South Peninsula residents turn out to ‘defend democracy’

Members of the Homer community and the Unitarian Universalists of Homer gathered… Continue reading

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag. The state on Thursday reported a modest population growth between April 2020 and July 2021. It's the first time since 2016 the state has reported a population increase. (
State reports small population growth

Net migration still negative, but not as negative.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Health officials: Some monoclonal treatments widely ineffective against omicron

The new guidance comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

State Sen. Peter Micciche fields questions from constituents during a joint chamber luncheon on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022 at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
State Senate president lays out vision for upcoming session

Micciche seeks path forward on budget, looks to pass legislation on fishing permits, alcohol regulations

Snow covers the sign on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, at the South Peninsula Hospital Bartlett Street COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinic in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Local COVID-19 alert rate quadruples

State alert level per 100,000 people now is above 1,100.

Most Read