Roadblock: Alaskan Indigenous group protects land coveted by Pebble Mine developers

June 8, 2021

The road to Pebble Mine becomes more difficult.

Pedro Bay Corp., an indigenous organization in the Bristol Bay area of ​​Alaska, announced late last month that nearly 90% of its shareholders had voted in favor of conservation easements for more than 44,000 of the 92,100 acres. of company land in southwest Alaska. The deal would make lands closed to development, including the mining road proposed by Pebble Corp.

“This transaction supports the values ​​of our community members by protecting their lands, livelihoods and traditional way of life,” said CEO of Pedro Bay Corp. Matt McDaniel in a statement. “This is an opportunity that will provide our community with benefits and economic value in perpetuity. After years of reflection, the shareholders have now made an informed decision on how to manage and protect their private ancestral lands. “

A little over a year ago, on May 22, 2020, the US Army Corps of Engineers revealed that its decision record on the pebble mine project would be based on building a road north to the mine rather than a southerly ferry route across Lake Iliamna. , which had been the preferred plan throughout the public consultation process.

The new route was presented as a reduced environmental risk. But there was one big obstacle: the road required access to indigenous lands.

Three days later, the Igiugig village council issued a statement saying it would not cooperate with the Pebble Limited Partnership’s plan to use a route north via road and pipeline.

The village council of Igiugig controls the Diamond Point rock quarry, which would be needed as a port for the movement of mining materials and the export of the product.

“The PLP plan for Diamond Point presented in the [environmental impact statement] does not match our plans for Diamond Point and should not be considered an acceptable alternative, ”the board said in a statement last year.

McDaniel of Pedro Bay Corp., warned Shane McCoy, Pebble Mine Project Manager for the Army Corps, that the company “has not and will not consent to the Pebble Limited Partnership’s use of its land for the Pebble project “.

The Conservation Fund, an environmental nonprofit, is now raising funds to purchase land easements from Pedro Bay Corp. by the end of 2022. Once the transaction is completed, Pedro Bay Corp. retain ownership of the land, which will be subject to the terms of conservation easements. These will be held by the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust. In coordination with the company, the trust will be responsible for administering and enforcing the terms of the conservation easements in perpetuity.

The new agreement will expand a partnership between the trust, Pedro Bay Corp. and the Conservation Fund, which in 2016 established protections for more than 12,600 acres of the 92,100 acres of company land “allocated under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act,” according to the site. Group internet. In total, more than 56,000 acres of the company’s land “will balance Pedro Bay Corporation’s goals of land protection and responsible development on its lands,” according to a statement from the Conservation Fund.

The road around the lands of Pedro Bay Corp. across state land is rugged and mountainous, hampering infrastructure. And although the first license application for Pebble Mine was denied, the company is not precluded from reapplying.

“The Corps continues to ignore our concerns, has failed in its trusted responsibility to adequately consult with our tribe, and has not performed in-depth analyzes of the impacts this project will have on our people,” the council said. in his statement regarding the first request. . The village council of Igiugig “will continue to put the welfare of our people and our future generations first, as we have done from time immemorial”.

Local tribes and other stakeholders are seeking permanent federal protections for the area.


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