Voters in Southwest Alaska voted in favor of a ballot measure intended to prevent the construction of the controversial Pebble gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
The vote on the measure, conducted by mail among residents of the Lake and Peninsula boroughs, was 280–246, according to a release from the Pebble Mine Partnership, a pro-mine group.
The mine has sparked a storm of controversy, with critics saying the proposed project, which would also produce copper, will destroy the surrounding salmon habitat and the long-standing salmon fishing business that goes with it.
Many jewelers, including Zale, have signed a pledge crafted by environmental groups that commits them to never buying Pebble gold. Tiffany even screened an anti-Pebble documentary to members of the trade in 2008.
The Pebble Partnership said in a statement that it and the state of Alaska view the initiative as unconstitutional since it covers state-owned lands, and will challenge it in Alaska’s Superior Court.
“Given the ballot measure’s misleading language, in particular its seeming focus on protecting salmon, it’s not surprising that it was supported by a slim majority of Lake & Peninsula Borough voters,” added Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals, one of Pebble’s developers.
However, in a blog post, Joey Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is opposed to the mine, said, “The Pebble Partnership has long committed that they won’t proceed if the people of the region oppose the mine, and today’s approval of the Save Our Salmon initiative is the latest indication of the region’s continuing resistance.”