Downing: Magical thinking environmentalists want green toys but don’t want mining



The permanent bureaucracy has done it again, driving another stake through the heart of the Pebble Project in southwestern Alaska, a project on land owned by the State of Alaska and set aside during Statehood for mining because it’s one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world. 

The decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to not allow Pebble to finish the permitting process came days after a similar decision knocked the legs out from under the Twin Metals copper and nickel project in northeast Minnesota.

Pebble is the most misunderstood and unloved mine proposal in America. But the question has to be asked: Does mining have a future in the green-energy America envisioned by environmentalists, or will it be outsourced to places Americans don’t know about and don’t care about? In the greening of American energy, where in the world will we get the minerals needed to actually live the low-carbon dream? 

If the S&P Global’s 2022 report is correct, the demand for copper will double by 2035. Some hope America can recycle its way out of the looming copper shortage. That’s a fantasy; already, recycled copper supplies 34% of the U.S. market’s demand for refined copper. Under no scenario will America be able to recycle what the new electrified future craves, which is copper and more copper, according to Daniel Yergin, S&P Global’s vice chairman.

Unwilling to mine in a regulated and bonded environment of its own, the nation will have to look to other countries for copper, nickel, and the minerals critical to the life that policymakers are crafting for us. As China rebounds, it is on the verge of having an insatiable appetite for copper to provide tech toys for Americans.

Perhaps the world can rely on Chile, the world’s largest copper supplier. Chile has the two largest copper mines in the world, after all. 

Maybe not. Chile is fraught with protests, strikes, slowdowns, and stoppages, making one third of the world’s copper supply no sure bet, if things take a turn for the worse. 

There is plenty of history to concern us: Chile nationalized its copper mines under the Marxist government of Salvador Allende in the 1970s. Chileans spent the last two years writing a new constitution, but in the end, the final rewritten constitution was rejected by the plebiscite in September. 

Leaders from both parties are now back at the drawing table, but rewriting a constitution is a tricky undertaking that can go a number of directions, including revolution. 

How about Peru? The Andean nation that provides nearly 10% of the world’s copper production is in upheaval, with social unrest, violent protests, and mine takeovers threatening the country’s GDP. This No. 2 supplier of copper is going through a dangerous political patch; since December, 48 people have died in violent uprisings, the worst in 20 years. Fitch Ratings revised the outlook for Peru from stable to negative in October.

Maybe the world can get copper from China, coming in at supplier No. 3. The People’s Republic of China not only mines the copper it needs to manufacture goods, it’s the largest consumer of copper in the world, and imports what it needs to make the gizmos and gadgets that we want.

China produced 10.49 million tons in 2022, and imported another 23 million tons. In addition, China has the kind of issues about which Americans should have legitimate concerns: slave labor, human rights abuses, environmental standards, and the urge for global domination, to name a few.

Down the list we go. We could get copper from the Congo. Yeah … no. The child labor, the lack of health, safety and worker protections, and government corruption create cognitive dissonance for the environmental community and its bookends of Marxism and communism. No amount of magical thinking can erase the image of six-year-olds working in mines.

The safest place to mine copper is in the United States. It’s safer for the environment and it’s safer for people.

The Pebble Project is 100 miles from Bristol Bay, farther than the distance between Sacramento and San Francisco Bay. It is farther than the distance between New York and Pittsburgh or Chicago and Rockford. It’s twice the distance between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Yet Pebble was cynically hijacked decades ago by the Left and made into the boogyman. Anti-Pebble activism has become a nonprofit money-raising racket.

The problem for never-Pebble people is that they want the green toys, but don’t want to acknowledge the mining needed to make those toys. 

Thus, America and the world face accelerating scarcity imposed by the legionnaires of the Left who are making the oldest metal known to man into a precious metal that, if this trend continues, even the U.S. Mint won’t be able to afford.

Suzanne Downing is the publisher of Must Read Alaska.


  1. Remember when the Dems labeled the Republicans the party of no? Well, try no mining, no oil or gas development, no coal, no timber harvesting, just no resource development – and NO JOBS! They’re the real party of no!

      • very true it is sad that authoritarians can just shut down an industry that is perfectly able to coexist with another over green politics

        • But they cannot co-exist. There is where you are stumbling.

          PS the authoritarian shut it down because jr liked the hunting opportunities out that way.

          I’m not supportive on foreign countries mining to their benefit not ours in our country and state.

  2. Wonder where cell phones and electric vehicles will continue to get materials for manufacture?Yeah, from areas that have no regard for the environment and jobs that don’t include American interests. No greenie will separate themselves from electronics or mined materials.

          • Just because you are not a card carrying member does not mean you are not part of it.
            Tell me, Maureen, who was the last Republican you voted for?
            It’s OK, I do not really expect an answer, and if you actually did answer, I am sure it would be a lie.

          • William Weld, though it is no business of yours.

            Why do you think I would lie? Do you find it difficult to trust folks with a different opinion than yourself?

          • Weld? So, no vote for a Republican since 1990? Or did you vote for him to be reelected as well? Yep, definitely proved you are not a democrat there. A vote for a Republican 30 years ago.
            And, I assume you would lie because you are a leftist, and generally, truth and leftism are incompatible. It is all about winning. And, I find it difficult to trust leftists. It is 100% verify first, trust with caution. Similar to the way I will work with five year olds.
            Given the obscure (for AK at least) vote you cast 30+ years ago, I will assume you are actually not full of it.

        • Art; Preserving the 2900 Bristol Bay permit holders and the Red Salmon run and kicking out a foreign mining company who would have ran away with booty is a conservative concept.

          Also you mention below that the state makes little from commercial fishing, well its nice to see the private sector win once in a while 😉

      • The company may have been HQ’d in Canada, but that does not mean the mine had no benefits for the USA. In fact, the USA would benefit greatly from the mine.
        So, the mine, did in fact, include American interests.

      • Maureen, As explained in Economics 101, any business, including a mining operation, only keeps a 5% to 15% margin on the value of its production. For mining, most of the value remains in the country and locale where the minerals are extracted. Ergo, Pebble is primarily an American and Alaskan interest. Geez.

  3. Suzanne; To the contrary; As a fiscal conservative I want mining, worked 3 claims over the years, 1 hard rock and 2 placer.
    Preserving a strong BB red salmon run is a conservative concept along with keeping a deceitful foreign mining company out, as President Trump helped us see the light denying Northern Dynasty with necessary Army Corp of Engineers permits.
    America first, not a foreign mining company running away with the goods 😉

    • The salmon fishery in Alaska is anything but conservative. The public resource (salmon) is reserved exclusively for an elite group of franchise (limited-entry permit) holders; 25% of whom live out-of-state. Harvesters should be required to win their permits at annual public auction that all Alaskans should be allowed to compete in. The existing system was put into place by fishermen (Hammond, Tillion) for the exclusive benefit of fishermen. This corruption is not conservative; it is tyranny.

      • This was already voted on Wayne and you want to change horses again because you evidently were in the minority with that election that also had a constitutional vote. Tough boogies to you!

        • Billy Boy, when that election was held, Wayne was living out of State attending college and voting for Jimmy Carter via absentee ballot. This was before Wayne had received a full education and understanding of how our Constitution works. Apparently, Wayne has wised up some and his statement above is absolutely correct. The State owns the fish and is obliged to manage the resource for sustained yield only, not to decide who gets a permit to harvest that resource.
          BTW, how did that paying a year’s worth of fish to some grandfathered in knucklehead for a permit work out for you?

          • I fished commercially in PWS for 26 seasons and, with the exception of EXXON-Valdez, it was an incredible experience-the worst day of fishing always beat the best day of working.
            I’ve been retired now for about 10 years and still fish my gillnetter for personal use sockeyes on the Outer Coast. By the way, those grandfathered in permits were issued to essentially those that had been in their fishery for a number of years to qualify-when I started gillnetting in 1985 there were a lot of those fishermen still around who had fished with much less technology (boats and nets) and some found it difficult to change with the times, like many old timers. They (at least in PWS and Copper River) were mostly all Alaskans but were being replaced by many WA gillnetters that had been restricted in WA due to the Bolt decision giving half the fish to their Native Indians.
            Anyway, regardless of what education Wayne received, Alaskans voted to support limited entry and even requiring a constitutional amendment allowing it. Many BB fishermen felt it would be found unconstitutional and they sold their permits-imagine they still lay awake at night wondering what hit them.

  4. Hypocrisy is the lefts stock and trade. This isn’t new.

    The left has some idea their progressive upper crust white world runs on magic and unicorn farts. They happily ignore the toys aunt life they love is fueled largely by 3rd world minorities in virtual slavery.

    The goal is simple: make life as miserable as possible for the rest of us.
    To facilitate a devolution of most of the world back to the Stone Age.

  5. Look who opposes Pebble Mine: dozens of outside companies; dozens of fish guides who live in the lower 48; people that live in the Seattle area and make money from appearing on Alaska TV shows.
    The opposition to Pebble is far more “non-Alaskan” than the supporters of Pebble.

    Preserving a strong salmon run may or may not be a conservative concept, but it is not conservative to support federal government control of Alaska lands nor to support unrestricted power in the federal government to decide what can be done based on the political winds of the day.

    • CRL; there are roughly 2,900 Bristol Bay permit holders, set net and drift, that may disagree with you.
      They have enough boats and personnel out there to start a war 😉
      Slightly less than 50% of those fisherman live in Alaska.
      Supporting foreign owned Northern Dynasty is anti American, anti Trump 😉

      • I’m surprised to see you admit that the majority of Bristol Bay fishermen do not live in Alaska, what do you think about all of the tenders and processors that are also from outside? You’re good with them exploiting an Alaska resource while giving little if any back to the state and/or region while polluting our waters huh?

          • “Scoop” Jackson and Warren Magnuson have been gone for a long time, and the days of Stevens and Murkowski working with them and Inouye in Alaska’s interests were forty years ago. Alaska has no friends among the communists that run Washington, Oregon, and California these days.

            If we could get an honest economic analysis, we’d likely find that Alaska spends more on “managing” commercial fishing than it takes in revenue from it. The people who make money from commercial fishing are the politicians who stuff their pockets with campaign contributions. They should just be honest about it and go back to renting the top floor of The Baranof during the Session and stocking it with Seattle hookers and a free bar.

          • Jo,
            You know that many of the fish processors aren’t American right? And those processors own the bill to a lot of the tenders and fishing boats and permits in the Bay.

            So you are good with Americans using foreign owned vessels fishing for foreign companies polluting our waters, just as long as the people doing the fishing aren’t foreigners, is that right? Whichever way the wind blows Jo…large mining companies bad when they are a part of the plan, large mining companies good when they aren’t a part of the plan. Americans pollution good, foreigners pollution bad.

  6. Good article Suzanne. World commodities markets affect global politics/economies beyond most people’s comprehension. US environment regulations are enabling and even promoting offshore abuse of people and their lands while fortifying hostile dictators. The No development here lobby raises cash by selling lies, and preventing open discussion of facts. The first step for survival of the US is to help encourage everyone to open their minds and allow civil dialogue beyond the paid propogandist’s taradiddles.
    Must Read AK is doing it!

    • You have hit the nail on the head there Greg. The problem with the Green New Dream is that it is 100% reliant on technology that is “right around the corner” Like fusion generators, and room temperature super conductors. All of which were “going to be mainstream in 10 years.” several decades ago.
      While I too am optimistic about the future, and several of the advancements that we have already achieved over the last 10 years or so, I am not going to stop advocating for continuing to mine and drill known sources, and using technology we have today.

      • What the F does that have to do with anything?
        Look, we all know you abhor religion, but do you have to bring it up in reply to comments that have NOTHING to do with it?

  7. Suzanne; You may be correct on the distance of pebble site and BB (100 miles) but the site is at ground zero on red salmon spawning grounds. Hundreds of small lakes, streams, and 2 major rivers., all spawning grounds.

    According to DNR, as of 2010 there is 792.6 square miles of claimed mineral rights with Northern Dynasty owning 186 square miles of it 😉

    • It’s one small tributary creek, not ground zero (seriously misused terminology here) of red salmon spawning grounds. There are many, many river systems that make up Bristol Bay. Look at a map sometime Jo..

        • It’s a large ocean out there isn’t it? I learned a saying while I was commercial fishing in Bristol Bay, ‘the solution to pollution is dilution’. Bill’s familiar with that saying, as a former commercial fisherman he’s been diluting his pollution for years.

          If the proposed pond were to fail it would not damage other river systems, unless somehow water figures out a way to flow up hill. If the proposed pond were to fail it would not destroy the entirety of Bristol Bay, thise claim it would have absolutely no concept of how big the bay is or how small the proposed mine would be.

          • It’s dependent on the size of that tailings pond Steve-o. That and the pollutants that are held in it.
            There is no way this co. would be willing to put up a bond to cover such a scenario and until they do I’ll oppose their dilution scheme.
            They don’t get a mixing zone in this fishery, period.

          • Bill,
            It appears you once again find yourself in the situation where your ignorance and your advocacy align. You are opposed to something you are ignorant of but you don’t let that stop you from repeating the lines you are fed, do you?

            You don’t know how big the proposed pond you are opposed to would be, and you don’t know what would be in the proposed pond you are opposed to? You really should inform yourself before you recite opinions that others give you that are based upon false information.

          • Steve-O; They said the Mt. Polley mine was safe, touted and bragged how safe it was, then in 2014 disaster, a catastrophic earthen dam breach releasing 23 million cubic meters of toxic waste wiping out 2 large lakes then running into Alaskan tide waters then the coincidental loss of southeast Chinook Salmon run.
            History is not on the side of pebble.

          • That’s because nobody knows the size of tailings issues without knowing the overall final mine size. What is known is their initial footprint but nobody expects them to start out big. Once any initial mine is approved and that watershed is destroyed expect it to expand and with that expansion the tailings pond increases. Kensington mine got initial approval to fill one lake and later added another lake to be filled.
            Go ahead and give us your reasons against this process Steve-o but don’t expect anyone to swallow it. Heheh!

        • I am pretty sure that Lucinda and Bill have never set foot onto a modern mine in their life.
          Hey Bill how much contaminated water did your bilge pump release into alaskan waters during your fishing career? I doubt you cared if oily water and hydraulic leaks were policed up on your decks.

          • Do you really want to compare industrial mine waste with the occasional leaking of diesel or hydraulic fluid into the ocean? Perhaps you also think a
            diesel/gas spill is comparable to EXXON-Valdes dumping of crude in the millions of gallons. Get a grip as you are ignorant here.
            As to the pumping of bilges, while some fishermen act differently, there are ways of removing the petroleum products from bilge water. Hydraulic leaks are/were rare, if ever.

          • Sure hydraulic leaks are rare, ?. Guess what is seen on Deadliest Catch are just by chance. ROFLMAO. I’m sure all you old timer fishermen were 100% about being environmentally friendly, not profit driven. ?

            Fort Knox tailings Dam has not leaked. You do know that some of the slopes and tailings dams are stabilized with Shotcrete, right? The mines are very environmentally conscious. Maybe you should actually go and tour one of them.

          • Any decent fisherman interested in profits would not allow his hydraulic lines to wear as they don’t leak, they blow and you are done fishing till repaired. I have to say in over 25 years I’ve never had a hydraulic leak but I fished a 32′ gillnetter with not a similar hydraulic system to Deadliest Catch boats.
            As for tailings dams failing, Mount Polly in Canada is not that long ago-you might want to look into that one as it’s given a black eye to earthen tailings dams. And nobody wants one in this watershed of the largest sockeye fishery in the world. Nobody!

  8. Why don’t the green brained groups go after the biggest polluter the federal government. The military uses lots of fossil fuels and rare earth metals but the left wants you stove. What a bunch of losers.

    • MArk: I’m all for a reduced military for several reasons. How do you suppose I advocate for that? A letter to Dan Sullivan?

    • Oh, reasons for that.
      First of all, the left wants to use the military to disarm US Citizens. So, need to ensure they stay well fueled.
      Next, it is easy to turn off the electricity, especially if the require “smart” meters. But, turning off the gas flow? Not as easy.
      It is all about control, and the leftists want to control.

    • Maureen, Who owns North Face Clothing Company? Where are their products made? What percentage of materials that make up the jacket came from mining? (aside from the poor goose that had it’s down ripped off his carcass to provide the batting, dead goose down is a product of Agriculture).
      Point is Maureen, every implement we use in life is a product of the mining industry. Given that fact, if Pebble is a BAD mine, are their any good mines, anywhere? This is a serious question because it seems every mine proposed in Alaska is summarily opposed by those people who are fond of wearing trendy Petro-Chemical clothing and who fly in Airplanes, drive their Subaru’s and use their Lap-tops.

      • Kill our food so Canada can have our copper to sell to us. Only we will be dead from no food to buy it.

        Enjoy YOUR (big spender on name brand clothing) jacket.

        • My Athabaskan nephew works at Fort Knox (FBX).
          He’s married to an Athabaskan & they have 3 kids (1 half Black)
          Ditto Red Dog, full of local Native workers

          I have a Yupik relative who worked for years at Juno’s silver mine
          The mayor of Nome, a local gay guy, worked for Nome Gold
          (sold 6 yrs ago to outside investors)
          Many ‘part white’ Native people in Nome & the Interior come from mining families
          (very common)
          Alaskans certainly do benefit from mining, no matter who owns the mine

          • Not Pebble.

            Glad your folks have work. They won’t at Pebble. Especially when it closes because of environmental catastrophe. Guess what? You won’t be eating any fish from Bristol Bay either

        • I have come to the point that I am pro mining & anti fishing
          Leave the oceans alone for a while ….they are exhausted
          They don’t need white folks from gentrified Brooklyn w/ college degrees & BB permits coming up every summer, nor do they need an army of low wage foreigners processing fish in Dutch so we can have a Fishwich at McDonalds.

          • Maureen,
            It’s OK, you’re having trouble following the conversation.

            And that’s not how using quotations works, you can’t quote someone and then write something that they didn’t write in between the quotation marks.

  9. If Pebble was being developed by an American company, I’d be all for it. I’m happy to see a foreign exploiter get thumped on the head.

    • Anchor, you mean like foreign oil companies, or automobile companies? What percentage of Honda, Toyota, etc, are owned by Ford, GM, etc.

      • The fishery has less than 10 left as a viable commfish one. It is in the process of being ground into dust economically by the fish farmers (onshore and offshore), genetically modified salmon (Lisa’s frankenfish), and the new kid on the block, sushi-quality salmon grown in tanks.

        Can you say dead man walking? I knew you could. Cheers –

      • Pur fisheries are already being destroyed by long line trawling. They don’t keep everything caught in the nets. Do you really think every species thrown back lives?
        Also alaska and USCG are not able to police every trawler outside of US territorial waters. Might explain the lack of crab and salmon returns, now wouldn’t it. How is it you lefties lack common sense?

    • Athabaskans work at Fort Knox (FBX)
      Inupiat work at Red Dog.
      Tlingits work at the silver mine in Juno
      Gay people work at Alaska Gold (Nome) I know one of them.
      Alaskans benefit greatly from mining jobs, not everyone has a college degree
      These jobs pay well. Not every AK High School graduate should have to work in restaurants.

      You would cut out these good jobs that give the world what it needs because the wrong ‘group’ owns the mine?

      • George,
        I used to work with a bunch of Lesbians in a tree cutting operation. They are actually pretty good workers when supervised correctly. They kept the chainsaws maintained, as well as the axes and splitters. Didn’t trust them running the skidder or winch cables though. I was afraid that their suspenders would get caught in the lines.

      • What’s wrong with working in a restaurant? Aren’t those the people paying taxes when fisherman have another “bad year” and need handouts from the feds?

  10. Environmental wackos are myopic in scope. Their vision of Alaska is to create a wilderness museum so they can commune with Nature and let a few tourists in for a peek. Environmental wackos have no sense of economics, resource development, infrastructure, or growth for our state. It’s an extremely selfish view that they hold, with little or no common sense as how to compete and sustain a decent standard of living for all. How they ended upmin Alaska, where common sense is needed to survive, is a mystery.

      • Hawaii has tourism 12 months a year
        AK has tourism 4.5 months a year.
        Tourism jobs pay sh*t (unless you own the company)
        I,m sure you’re pro welfare, but do we have to drive almost everyone to the welfare rolls?

        The Criuse Ship Industry stinks …. floating buffets that trash the environment & pay peanuts.
        Every been to Skagway, Juno or Sitka when the behemoths are dumping people in those tiny towns? …. to shop at seasonal tourist traps owned by people that live in Utah?
        A mine is a fixed location, the boats pollute EVERYWHERE.

        • Sure seems folks flock to Norway and Iceland in the winter for northern lights and more winter fun.

          Sure-if owners would pay a reasonable wage tourism would pay reasonably.

  11. Let’s just dump massive amounts of mercury in the water and kill the run for about 40 years.

    Problem solved.

  12. Don’t forget the foolishness of our congressional delegation on this. Lisa prattles on about renewables, spending $$$ on them every chance she gets. Yet she is the largest opponent to Pebble on the delegation. Dan’s opposition is personal, as an idiot publicly humiliated him. And Mary is just doing what her dem masters want her to do. So much to developing nearly a trillion $$$ of Alaskan natural resources, perhaps 85% of the total value of everything pumped out of Prudhoe Bay since the 1970s. Cheers –

    • agimarc; you are incorrect, profits would go to a foreign country. Also Native corporation denied a would be road from L. Illiamna to the pebble site, that would mean no heavy equipment, no mine, no nonsense, no BS 😉

  13. Ya, it’s all pretty pathetic, with the right mining protocols that would obviously be required, this would be no threat to the region and their fishing resources. And they all know it! The truth is The people in these and other areas of Alaska get the best of both worlds, Many live off many government handouts , yet they can also can flourish and make extra money fishing, as well many can work countless jobs in public sector positions , City, State, and Federal. My Guess is if they were ever offered a percentage of all profits from the mines and not asked to make any of their own investments in them kinda like the Oil Industry, they would sell out in a minute. But Many like to continuously use their Culture as an endless weapon, as if their Culture is superior to all other Cultures on the planet, and to the majority of the world it is NOT! Many claim to live like their Elders or ancestors, yet many pollute and destroy their own local eco systems, Yet the same Many who claim to live like their ancestors fly in thousands of tons of out side goods from all over the world Year around to these areas where there’s little or no process to deal with their annual consumptions of All these products, which creates endless trash, debri, and toxic goods like batteries, refrigerators, freezers, computers, old vehicles and lots of toys like snow machines and the latest side by sides on the market, yes you name it, it’s out their in Bush/ Rural Alaska, and the garbage piles up, gets burned in open dumps, and little or none of it ever gets recycled , yes the secrets of the bush need to be brought to light Alaska. The billions of state revenue and especially federal dollars have provided sanctuary for these communities over the several decades, yet they really live no different then those in the lower 48, yet they are not held to the same enviromental standards as others who don’t live in the bush, yet there is no real recycling efforts, or attempts to deal with their own pollution and enviromental issues, yet they worry about some mine that will no doubt end up being monitored heavily by all environmental groups on the planet when it does eventually happen( And it will). This entire push back has never been about a real threat to the fisheries, it’s always been about how they can get their hands deeper into the cookie jar. The minute they announce portions of the pebble mine proceeds go to the community , then all the sudden it will be aloud and they will say it can be done safely . Until then, Many will continue to use their Culture to Fleece the American Taxpayer, as if their Culture is the only Culture, it’s a total shell game they have played for decades. Total Hypocrisy and BS !

  14. Dm you nailed it. Hahaha subsistance life, if they can’t hunt they will starve. But no problems flying in alcohol or a new snowmobile! I live in the bush but that ferry better be here on Saturday to bring me to Fred Myers so I can get my supplies to come back out and live my bush life.

  15. Life doesn’t revolve around commercial fishing anymore. Seems like I’m always hearing about them holding their hands out looking for more federal money because they had a “bad year”

  16. I missed this column when I came out. The analysis regarding mining is correct. What may be worse is that the levels of various compounds and chemicals deemed by the government to be adverse to the environment are, in many cases, supported by very little evidence or even arbitrary. Similarly, efficiency standards for appliances and gas mileage requirements for cars are largely arbitrary. They are numbers made up by regulators with little knowledge of how they might be achieved. We are killing ourselves with regulation like this.

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