PacRim Coal suspends permitting of a coal mine within the Ch’u’itnu

by the NARF

Today (April 3rd), the Native Village of Tyonek (NVT) secured a powerful victory in its fight against a proposed 25,000 acre open pit coal mine that threatened its homeland, culture, and way of life. On March 30, 2017, PacRim Coal, LP, submitted a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announcing its decision “to suspend pursuit of permitting efforts on the Chuitna Coal Project.” For nearly four decades, NVT has been fighting proposed coal development in the Ch’u’itnu (Chuitna or Chuitt River) watershed.

“Our Salmon, our way of life, and our land are safe,” says Arthur Standifer, Tribal President of the Native Village of Tyonek. “It is our fish and game, it is our land that we are looking after.”

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) celebrates this powerful victory alongside the Native Village of Tyonek. Nevertheless, we recognize that this is just one fight, and we must remain vigilant to other proposed development that threatens to destroy the ways of life in Native communities throughout Alaska and across the United States.

NARF Senior Staff Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller says: “NARF salutes the tenacity of the Native Village of Tyonek in opposing the development of a coal mine that would destroy salmon habitat streams. Tribal leadership tipped the balance here in favor of maintaining healthy sustainable natural resources.”

The Native Village of Tyonek sits just seven miles from the proposed project site, forty miles across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, Alaska, next to the mouth of the Ch’u’itnu. Since time immemorial, the Tubughna (the residents of the Native Village of Tyonek) have occupied the Ch’u’itnu watershed and the landscape across the southern foothills of the Alaska Range. For countless generations, this landscape has served as the catalyst for their subsistence lifeways and place-based cultural and spiritual identity. Even today, these lifeways, cultural practices, and identifiers remain largely unchanged.

The 180 residents of the Native Village of Tyonek still harvest subsistence resources throughout the Ch’u’itnu watershed and continue the ceremonies and practices of their culture and spirituality across the landscape. Their way of life and identity, however, were threatened by the proposed mine. The proposed coal mine would have been excavated across the Ch’u’itnu and its tributaries, destroying healthy salmon spawning habitat, and irreversibly harming the cultural, spiritual, and ecological character of the landscape. That stops today.