Where Water is Gold: Life and Livelihood in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

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Bristol Bay, in southwest Alaska, is one of the few places on Earth where wild salmon still thrive. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, some 80 million sockeye returned to spawn in Bristol Bay's tapestry of lakes, rivers and streams. But the beauty and richness of this wild salmon stronghold faces unprecedented threats from large-scale mining projects. The biggest of these is the proposed Pebble Mine.

Situated in the headwaters of two of Bristol Bay's most important rivers—the Nushagak and the Kvichak—the proposed Pebble Mine could be the largest open-pit mine in North America. The industrial footprint of this massive sulfide deposit, if developed, could span anywhere from 15 to 54 square miles. According to preliminary designs filed with the State of Alaska, the mine could require the world's largest earthen dam, some 4.3 miles long and 700 feet high, to contain billions of tons of toxic mining waste. The risk of acid mine drainage, heavy metal leakage, toxic dust and huge water withdrawals are just some of the myriad threats that Pebble poses to Bristol Bay and its salmon spawning grounds. 

This photographically rich book by Alaskan photographer Carl Johnson discusses the issues surrounding the development of the Pebble prospect and other mining claims areas.