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OP-ED: Trump administration finally gets one right, rejects Alaska Pebble Mine permit

Scott Martelle
Los Angeles Times (TNS)
An employee of Northen Dynasty Mines Inc. mans a drilling rig in the Pebble Mine East site near the village of Iliamna, Alaska in 2007. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

As the Trump administration rushes to finalize all sorts of policies and regulations that are bad for the environment, it got this one right. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected a permit for the massive Pebble Mine proposal near Alaska's Bristol Bay that would have threatened a key salmon fishery and other natural resources.

In rejecting the permit, the corps said the project was "contrary to the public interest."

Yes, the Trump administration chose the public good and the environment over corporate desires. Of course, it probably didn't hurt that Donald Trump Jr., who styles himself as an outdoorsman, opposed the project.

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Details of the proposal had shifted over time (with some reported misdirections by proponents), but it was expected to become one of the largest open-pit mines in the world with a dam, a shipping port, roadways and massive storage ponds for runoff from operations aimed primarily at digging up copper, gold and other materials.

The proposed mine site is about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, on land with runoff that eventually reaches Bristol Bay. The bay is home to the world's largest wild sockeye salmon fishery, which supports 14,000 jobs in a $1.5 billion local industry of commercial fishing boats and individual anglers — like Trump Jr.

The Times Editorial Board has long opposed the project as not only a danger to the environment, but — had the administration approved it — a callous elevation of the interests of an international mining company over an existing sustainable regional economy.

"Bristol Bay supports a vibrant, long-running economy based on a sustainable fishery ... as well as tourism and other non-extractive businesses," The Times wrote last year as President Donald Trump appeared to change course on the Obama administration's opposition to the mine. "Allowing the mine to go forward would sacrifice the existing and more environmentally friendly economy for gold and copper extraction that could be disastrous for the environment."

Fortunately, the Trump administration listened — even if the decision bore the weight of the president's son's thumb.

I should note, too, that the editorial board wrote last year that "the Trump administration has earned the nation's skepticism over whether, in adopting policies and weighing proposed projects, it can be relied upon to shepherd our natural resources in a balanced, sustainable and sensible manner."

Score one for Trump.


— Scott Martelle, a veteran journalist and author of six history books, is a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board.