The proposed mine near Bristol Bay would dig up an estimated $300 billion worth of gold, copper, and molybdenum. But it would threaten another treasure: one of the world's biggest salmon runs, which provides half the world's supply of sockeye.
One of two global mining giants involved in the project announced Monday that it was walking away from what it regards as a high-risk venture. U.K.-based Anglo American had spent $541 million getting the 50/50 joint-venture project nearly to the point where it could begin applying for state and federal permits. By quitting now, it avoids spending nearly $1 billion more it had agreed to sink into development of the mine. Anglo told shareholders it would write $300 million of intangible assets off of its ledger at the end of the year -- the price of walking away from a deal that it once thought would lead to bountiful riches.
It's too early to say what this will mean for the fate of the project, but environmentalists rejoiced in the news while investors choked on it.