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Originally published Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 4:16 PM

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Editorial: Save Bristol Bay, stop the mine

EPA announced plans Friday that could halt proposed copper and gold mining at the headwaters of Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THIS past summer, more than 15 million salmon were caught in Bristol Bay, a job-rich fishery in southwest Alaska that has been under threat from a massive mining project.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday it would take steps that could restrict or prohibit plans for large-scale mining proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals of Vancouver, B.C.

Tribes, environmental groups and all phases of the fishing industry, from harvest to processing and tourism, have fought the proposal. Opponents also include members of the Washington and Oregon congressional delegations.

In January, the EPA released a report that detailed significant risks. On Friday, the agency’s regional administrator described information from the developers of the proposed mine that showed devastating effects, according to an Associated Press report.

The EPA is invoking its power under the Clean Water Act to protect “the world’s most productive salmon fishery,” from “significant and irreversible negative impacts,” on salmon and the watershed.

The massive open-pit mine is getting an appropriately hard look from regulators. The Pebble Mine took another hit last September when the London-based Anglo American — one of the world’s largest mining companies — pulled out of a deal with Northern Dynasty Minerals.

This project is described as covering seven square miles, and needing waste disposal impoundments covering another 19 square miles.

The economic reach of the Bristol Bay fishery is extraordinary, with thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of economic impact in Washington and Oregon, all documented by independent research.

EPA’s review is expected to take at least a year. Mounting evidence points to a wholly appropriate outcome. Stop the mine; protect the fishery.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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