200 Lawyers 15 Offices 620 Cases

Earthjustice goes to court for our planet.
We’re here because the earth needs a good lawyer.

Earthjustice Returns to Court to Protect Huge Win Against Proposed Pebble Mine

Earthjustice is once again taking legal action to protect the world’s greatest wild sockeye salmon run in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The threat comes from the proposed Pebble Mine, a large-scale open pit copper and gold mine that the Environmental Protection Agency determined could not proceed under the Clean Water Act.

The proposed mine would destroy nearly 100 miles of fish stream habitat and 2,100 acres of wetlands, lakes, and ponds — with massive expansions likely to follow.

The state of Alaska and the mine developer are now challenging the EPA’s decision in court, despite strong opposition within the region, across the state, and nationally. After fighting for years alongside Tribes, fishers, conservation groups, and Alaskans to defeat this mine, Earthjustice is not going to quietly watch the victory get undone. On May 17, we joined coalition partners in filing a motion to intervene in this case to defend the EPA’s decision.

Why Bristol Bay Matters

  • One of our world’s surviving great ecosystems, Bristol Bay is a sustainable economic powerhouse for local communities and the lifeblood for Alaska Native cultures who have lived there for millennia.
  • It produces approximately half of the world’s sockeye salmon catch and supports one of the world’s largest Chinook salmon runs, fueling 15,000 jobs and a $2.2 billion fishing economy.
  • For the Alaska Native people who comprise the majority of the Bristol Bay area population, salmon have a significance far beyond sustenance and wealth.

The EPA Got It Right

  • The EPA’s decision in 2023 prohibits Pebble’s plan to dump mining waste into the Bristol Bay watershed, citing Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.
  • The proposed Pebble Mine was already on the rocks after the Army Corps of Engineers denied mine developers a key permit in 2020 and upheld its denial in April 2024. In that decision, the Corps highlighted many of the concerns that opponents to the project, including Earthjustice, have pointed out all along.

A Long Fight for Protection

  • The proposal to put a huge open-pit mine in salmon territory has been controversial since at least 2010, when six Bristol Bay Tribes asked the EPA to protect the Bristol Bay watershed from the Pebble Mine.
  • After years of scientific research showing how harmful the mine would be, the Trump administration nonetheless moved to put protections for Bristol Bay on ice.
  • Earthjustice and others sued the Trump EPA for this move. A federal appellate court agreed that the EPA needed to reconsider.
  • This ruling cleared the way for the EPA to make a science-based decision to protect the watershed.

The Battle is Not Yet Won

  • The mine’s developers – Pebble Limited Partnership and its parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. – filed a lawsuit in March to try to overturn the EPA’s veto. The State of Alaska separately filed a lawsuit challenging EPA’s action in April.
  • In a highly unusual and aggressive move, the state of Alaska first tried to leapfrog the lower courts by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse EPA’s decision. The Court denied the request and the state refiled a case in the federal district court in Alaska, joining with the mine’s developers.
  • Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council have joined with Trustees for Alaska to represent a coalition of 15 conservation groups in the motion to intervene in support of EPA’s decision. The United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and other Bristol Bay groups including , businesses and commercial fishers were the first to intervene to defend EPA’s decision. Trout Unlimited also separately intervened to defend EPA’s decision.
  • In an independent but related effort, U.S. Representative Mary Peltola from Alaska earlier this month introduced federal legislation, the Bristol Bay Protection Act. If that legislation were to pass, it would prevent the mine from being built.
  • Earthjustice is committed to stopping the exploitation and destruction of Earth’s most irreplaceable lands and waters, including all those on public lands. We are in this fight for the long haul.
  • Bristol Bay is just one special place that is threatened by an irresponsible mine due to our antiquated mining laws and regulations. We must update our 150-year-old mining laws to ensure mining companies don’t mine special or sacred places, and where they do mine they are held to the highest standards.
Sockeye salmon race through the Alagnak River in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed.
Sockeye salmon race through the Alagnak River in Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed. (Photo courtesy of Fish Eye Guy Photography)