The Trump administration rejected plans for a controversial open-pit mining project in Alaska on Wednesday that, if approved, could have threatened a thriving ecosystem for wild sockeye salmon.
The rejection, issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, came after weeks of waffling on the Trump administration’s part. Republicans, usually in favour of domestic mining projects, had been generally split over the plans for the copper and gold mine, particularly after tapes leaked over the summer that featured then-CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, Tom Collier, bragging about his plans to exert influence over Alaskan politicians in order to get the project approved.
The tapes helped to cement the opposition of Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), with other prominent dissenters including Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the president’s own son, Donald Trump Jr.
In a formal 29-page record of decision released Wednesday, the Army Corps wrote that the “benefits of the proposed elimination and alteration of wetlands, streams and other waters within the [Corps] jurisdiction do not outweigh the detriments that would be caused by such eliminations and alterations, based upon the information contained with the [final environmental impact statement], the extensive public comments received, and the analysis of the public interest review factors.”
The decision was cheered by environmental groups and Democrats, who, along with president-elect Joe Biden, had long opposed the mine’s construction.
“I am pleased the Administration and Army Corps of Engineers has done the right thing by rejecting a Clean Water Act permit for the Pebble Mine project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in a statement. “I understand the important role mining plays in our economy but the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project did not come near close enough to assuring me this world-class sockeye salmon fishery, which generates $US1.5 ($2) billion each year and supports 14,000 jobs, would be protected.”