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Trump Administration Rejects Pebble Mine Project In Alaska

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In a surprise announcement today, the Trump administration has denied a permit for the Pebble Mine in Alaska. The proposed open-pit gold mine would have been one of the largest in North America. Alaska Public Media's Liz Ruskin reports.

LIZ RUSKIN, BYLINE: At many points during the Trump presidency, it has appeared that the permit was certain to be granted. But the Army Corps of Engineers determined the mine plan would not comply with the Clean Water Act and that the project is not in the public interest. Fishermen and tribes in Bristol Bay have been fighting the mine for more than a decade, fearing it would degrade the rich salmon runs that are at the heart of the area's economy and Indigenous culture. Sport fishermen come from all over the world to stay at lodges in the area for a chance at landing a record coho or rainbow trout. Nanci Morris Lyon at Bear Trail Lodge in King Salmon got the news by text.

NANCI MORRIS LYON: It is an incredible relief. I felt like sitting down and just crying for a while (laughter).

RUSKIN: Lyon says the prospect of the mine has held the whole region hostage for years. Lodge owners like her didn't know if they could invest in their businesses. The president's oldest son, an avid hunter and fisherman, is credited with galvanizing the Trump administration against the project. Lyon says Donald Trump Jr. and his brother Eric stayed with her about eight years ago.

MORRIS LYON: I always said that I had faith that after they had visited here and they spent time here, that they understood that this place didn't need something like that marring it, scarring it, ruining it forever.

RUSKIN: Pebble Limited Partnership says it's not giving up and is focusing on a possible appeal of the Army Corps' decision. The company says the project would provide hundreds of good jobs.

But there were more questions about the lasting impact of the mine when secret recordings emerged this fall. Pebble executives were caught saying that they ultimately planned a much larger mine than they had requested a permit for. For now, the Army Corps' decision appears to be a death blow for the Pebble Mine. The incoming Biden administration is likely to oppose the project, as the Obama administration did.

For NPR News, I'm Liz Ruskin in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF CALEXICO'S "SPINBALL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.