Cell-based salmon group Wildtype is joining forces with environmental NGO The Conservation Fund in a fundraising campaign aimed at preventing the opening of the Pebble Mine copper and gold mine at the headwaters of southwestern Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
The proposed mine has been at the heart of a decade-long fight over mining in one of the world’s largest salmon fisheries.
Plans for the project have drawn strong opposition from Alaska Native tribes, seafood processing companies and commercial fishermen, uniting them with scientists, campaigners and politicians who fear potentially severe risks to the region's salmon population and the local economy.
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. Also known as a conservation restriction or conservation agreement, a conservation easement is one option to protect a property for future generations.
The campaign joined by Wildtype aims to raise $20 million (€19.6 million), with the goal of securing conservation easements that would benefit the Pedro Bay Corporation, an Alaska Native Village Corporation.
"While state and federal governments have so far not approved permits for Pebble Mine, the ecologically sensitive area must be permanently protected," Wildtype Chief Growth Officer Ben Friedman, who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, said.
The comments were echoed by The Conservation Fund, which states on its website that Pebble Mine threatens to destroy one of the most ecologically and culturally special places on earth.
"Join us in permanently in protecting a world-renowned portion of Bristol Bay, home to the largest wild salmon fishery in the world, accounting for 57 percent of global sockeye salmon harvest," the NGO said on its website.
The Alaska salmon industry fears mining activities will tarnish its brand, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars for the state.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a ban on the disposal of mining waste in the Bristol Bay watershed, a move seen as likely to kill off the project, the New York Times reported in May.
Pebble Mine, with copper reserves estimated at 37.18 million metric tons, is ranked by the Canadian Mining Journal at the top of a list of prospective North American copper projects for 2022.
Earlier this year, Wildtype announced that an all-star cast of investors, including Cargill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr. and Jeff Bezos participated in a $100 million (€88 million) funding round.