Fight is on between pro-fish camp, mine defenders

AP News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2009 11:10 AM

The fight is on between backers of an Alaska mine being developed near the world's most productive wild salmon streams and 13 Seattle restaurants.

This week, the establishments are featuring wild Alaska salmon on their menus, dished up with warnings about the future of Bristol Bay salmon if the copper, gold and molybdenum mine is permitted and built in southwest Alaska.

One of the Pebble Mine's most prominent supporters over the weekend called for a boycott of the restaurants taking part in Trout Unlimited's Savor Bristol Bay campaign.

Gail Phillips, the president of Truth about Pebble, a group of mine supporters, sent out her appeal for a boycott via e-mail to her "family and friends" _ including the chefs _ following an Associated Press story featuring chef Kevin Davis at the Steelhead Diner and chef Seth Caswell at Emmer & Rye. The chefs are among those participating in the Trout Unlimited campaign.

The e-mail from Phillips, also a former Alaska state legislator, prompted food blogger Ronald Holden _ Seattle's Global Gourmet _ to ask a question Monday.

"Seriously, Ms. Phillips, are you nuts?" Holden asked on two blogs, including his own.

"Every single visitor and every single local knows Seattle is famous for salmon," Holden responded to Phillips. "Like it or leave it, salmon is at the heart of Seattle's restaurant economy."

The Trout Unlimited campaign is timed to coincide with Seattle's Pacific Marine Expo 2009, the largest commercial marine trade show on the West Coast.

Phillips recites an oft-heard complaint coming from the pro-Pebble contingent that questions how Pebble opponents can come out against a mine that has no final development plan and isn't permitted.

Holden apparently has heard enough about Pebble to make up his mind.

"A wealth of minerals lies beneath the tundra, and Pebble wants it," he says on his blog. "Trouble is, getting the riches would require a vast open-pit mine, the world's biggest, on the headwaters of Bristol Bay."

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Anglo American have a 50-50 partnership to develop Pebble, which they say is one of the richest gold and copper deposits in the world. Plans call for starting the permitting process in 2010 with construction beginning as early as 2013.

Phillips said Monday that Holden has no clue what the mine is going to look like, nor does anybody else, until a final plan is developed.

"For a food blogger to already lay out the perimeters of the mine plan is foolish. It is not real because there is no plan yet," she said.

The other restaurants: Art of the Table, Chiso, Flying Fish, Persimmon, Ponti Seafood Grill, Rover's Restaurant, Tilth Restaurant, Tilikum Place Cafe, The Pike Brewing Co., Palace Kitchen and Etta's Seafood.