Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Geography

Committee Chair

Jeffrey Gritzner

Commitee Members

Anna Klene, Faith-Ann Heinsch


Bristol Bay, copper, Naknek, Pebble Mine, salmon


University of Montana


Bristol Bay, in Southwest Alaska, is the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world. After an almost total collapse of salmon numbers in the mid 1970’s, the salmon have returned and average in the tens of millions every year. The salmon play a vital economic, cultural, and subsistence role in the lives of the people who call Bristol Bay home. At present there is a plan to develop a low-grade, but substantial, mineral deposit that consists primarily of copper, gold, and molybdenum. The estimated value of the minerals present is more than $500 billion. This plan is known as the Pebble Project, and could involve an open-pit mine, a large area of block caving, as well as the creation of huge tailings ponds north of Lake Iliamna. The proposed site of the mine straddles a drainage divide that affects two major watersheds that feed the Bristol Bay fishery. A resource debate is at hand which places the development of the mineral deposit at odds with the health of the fishery.



© Copyright 2010 Ethan Jerome Gottschalk