Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence’s former top aide are calling on the Trump administration to block a controversial gold and copper mine proposed in Alaska that the Obama administration said would cause permanent damage to a critical salmon fishery.
Nick Ayers, Pence’s former chief of staff, wrote in a tweet on Tuesday that similar to “millions of conservationists and sportsmen” he is hoping President Donald Trump will tell the Environmental Protection Agency to block the Pebble Mine project, which has been a lightning rod for controversy for some two decades and has been widely assailed by numerous interest groups in Alaska and the lower states, and also faced opposition from many Alaskans.
Shortly thereafter, Trump Jr. echoed Ayers’ sentiments, writing in his own tweet: “As a sportsman who has spent plenty of time in the area I agree 100%. The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with.”
Trump Jr. is an avid fisher and “big game” hunter, often sharing social media posts with images from his hunting and fishing trips to locations across the globe. The expeditions have at times led to harsh criticism from animal rights’ groups and conservationists.
The younger Trump’s stance could provide much-needed support for opponents of the proposed mine, which include local leaders of indigenous groups, a commercial fishing organization and environmental activists.
Already, at least one lawmaker has seized on Trump Jr.’s position in her efforts to block the proposed mine from moving forward.
“I’m glad to see at least one Trump believes the mine is too risky,” Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said in a statement. “The science is clear — you can’t put a gold and copper mine on top of the most productive salmon run in the world and not have substantial and permanent damage. Salmon and mining simply do not mix.”
In late July, the mine was given a big push forward after the US Army Corps of Engineers issued a final report concluding the project would not cause long-term harm to one of the world’s largest remaining salmon runs, a sharp reversal to the Obama administration’s conclusions of the project, which essentially blocked progress on the mine because of environmental concerns by citing the potential for permanent damage to the pristine Bristol Bay watershed.
The Bristol Bay watershed and area is regarded as one of the world’s most important salmon fisheries, producing nearly half of the world’s annual wild sockeye salmon catch. Its ecological resources also support 4,000-year-old indigenous cultures, as well as about 14,000 full- and part-time jobs, according to an Obama administration EPA 2014 report.
Tom Collier — the CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, the project’s developer — said in July that the next steps for the project include the Army Corps of Engineers’ ultimate decision on the application to develop the mine and a state permitting process.