According to six sources familiar with the administration's plans, the Trump administration is preparing to reverse course and either block or "hit pause" on the controversial proposed open-pit Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, Politico reported in breaking news earlier today.
The Trump administration has been facing heavy pressure from recreational and commercial fishermen, native Alaskans, conservation and environmental groups since resurrecting the once-dead mine by killing a veto on mining in the region that was issued during the Obama administration.
Under the previous administration, "the EPA determined [Bristol Bay] was simply too valuable to risk destroying via the construction of a giant, open-pit mine at its headwaters—too valuable for the 14,000 Alaskan jobs it provides, too valuable for the $1.5 billion it contributes to Alaska's and the United States' economies, too valuable for its sockeye salmon fishery which supplies more sockeye salmon to the world than any other, too valuable for the 30 native cultures that depend on its salmon for survival and their cultural identity, too valuable for its pristine, undisturbed wilderness," Hatch Magazine reported in 2018.
According to Politico's reporting, sources indicated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will hold a press conference on Monday outlining problems with the mine's permit application (see more below), after which Trump is expected to issue a statement opposing the mine. These sources told Politico that Trump's opposition is likely to take the form of a permit denial rather than re-establishment of the 404(b) veto issued under the Obama administration.
But Pebble Limited Partnership CEO Tom Collier denied the reports that a halt to the Pebble Mine permitting process is on the horizon, telling the Anchorage Daily News in a phone interview, "They’re going to expect a substantial amount of mitigation. But we’ve known that for a months. ... That’s something we expect can be dealt with in due course ... I continue to deny that there is any basis for a story that the White House has decided to kill the project."
Conservation voices, many of whom have been sounding the alarm about Pebble Mine for more than a decade, issued a more hopeful message. Trout Unlimited CEO Chris Wood noted, “If the Trump administration decides to deny this permit, it is great news for Bristol Bay and the people who depend on it. Pebble Mine would threaten the most important salmon fishery in the world—a fishery that sustains local people, provides high-paying, family-wage jobs for a thriving commercial fishing industry, and inspires America’s hunters and anglers. After years of study, it is clear that Pebble presents unacceptable risks to one of our country’s most remarkable and awe-inspiring landscapes.”
Update: 8/24/2020 — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declined to issue a permit for Pebble Mine, finding that " as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation."
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.