The Trump administration denied a permit to build a massive gold and copper mine in Alaska that could have put the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery at risk.
In a surprise move, the Army Corps of Engineers said “the proposed project is contrary to the public interest” in killing a permit to build the Pebble Mine under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, the agency said in a statement.
The decision is in contrast to President Trump’s efforts to encourage energy development in Alaska, including drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other moves nationwide to removing environmental regulations that would benefit oil and gas exploration and other industries.
After nearly two decades of political wrangling, the Army Corps of Engineers signaled in August that the project wouldn’t go forward, informing the developer that it would have to clear environmental hurdles and create a mitigation plan before it could be approved.
The project proposed for the southwestern Bristol Bay region was opposed by Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers. Joe Biden in August vowed to stop the mine from being developed, if he was elected.
“It is no place for a mine,” he said at the time. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”
John Shively, the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s developers, said he was dismayed by the decision.
“One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area,” Shively said in a statement.
The environmental review “clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy.”
Meanwhile, Alaskan residents cheered the news.
“Today Bristol Bay’s residents and fishermen celebrate the news that Pebble’s permit has been denied; tomorrow we get back to work,” said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.
The group wants Congress to pass laws protecting the region.
“We’ve learned the hard way over the last decade that Pebble is not truly dead until protections are finalized,” Carscallen said.