A Canadian mining corporation, Northern Dynasty Minerals, is trying to create one of North America’s largest open pit gold and copper mines in the heart of Alaska’s Bristol Bay – a wonderland of fish-filled lakes, rivers and streams – home to some of the last great wild salmon runs and rainbow trout.

Most Americans who keep up on the news are familiar with the fight over drilling for oil exploration in the ANWR preserve but the real threat to Alaska’s fishing and hunting ecological systems is not ANWR, but rather the proposed development of an open pit mining district at the headwaters of the two most famous salmon producing river drainages in Alaska.

At the core of Pebble Mine, covering some 15 square miles, would be an open pit measuring about two miles long, a mile and a half wide and 1,700 feet deep. Over its period of operation, the mine is estimated to produce three billion tons of waste. Moreover, the proposed Pebble Mine, would just be the first of many, and include the largest dam in the world, larger than the oft-criticized Three Gorges Dam in China, and would be made of earth not concrete, which is less effective in holding back the toxic waste created in the mining process.

The rivers and creeks of Bristol Bay provide pristine spawning grounds for all five species of Pacific Salmon. The freshwater lakes offer abundant habitat for Rainbow Trout. What’s more, Lake Iliamna, just south of the pebble mining claim, is the largest body of freshwater in Alaska.

Bristol Bay is also home to the world’s largest commercial wild salmon fishery. The harvest and processing of Bristol Bay fish generates nearly $320 million a year and employs about 12,500 people, which could be endangered by Northern Dynasty’s project.

So this project is bad news for the environment, bad news for the local culture and, at best, a questionable economic proposition. The only certain benefit would be a rise in Northern Dynasty’s bottom-line. That’s why local opposition to the proposed open pit Pebble Mine, and the related 1000 square mile mining district around it, has been registered at more than 75 percent by one recent poll by Hellenthal and Associates.

Support the community by asking the US Bureau of Land Management to retain its prohibition of rock mining in Bristol Bay, help spread the word about this under-reported issue and write your local newspaper asking them to take a stand on the issue. And if you’re a resident of Alaska, ask Governor Sarah Palin to maintain the current prohibition on hard rock mine prospecting and development on the publicly owned land it manages in Bristol Bay.

Thanks to the Care2 network for the tip on this campaign.