Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
The Donlin and Pebbles mines are two of the eight industrial-scale hard rock mines currently under the review of Alaska’s Large Mine Permitting program. Both projects promise to deliver profit and employment to their respective regions: Pebble to Bristol Bay in the southwest, and Donlin to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, just north of Pebble. Both projects would also produce exceptional quantities of waste and will require almost-unprecedented infrastructure development, potentially threatening the lives and subsistence livelihoods of the Alaska Native peoples in their respective regions. The Pebble project inspired international protest and led to the emergence of a powerful resistance coalition of commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishers; activists and expert-consultants were thus able to build a powerful movement outside of and prior to the state permitting and impact assessment process. The coalitions that arose to oppose the Donlin project, in contrast, channeled their work through the state’s official public engagement processes – in part, due to strategic limitations stemming from the complexities of land use, sovereignty, and development politics specific to the Yukon-Kuskokwim region.
The coalitional resistance to Pebble and the creative use of Donlin’s public participation process are key sites in which Western science and knowledge systems, as well as land use ideologies centered on extraction and profit, meet with Native Alaskan traditional knowledge and subsistence approaches to land use. I draw upon a history of Alaskan land use policy alongside extensive interviews with community organizers, state and federal officials, mining industry officials, and consultants in order to describe and understand the result: a set of creative resistance strategies that forefront hybrid approaches to knowledge and multiple, overlapping understandings of the land. Unfortunately, Alaska’s large mine permitting and environmental assessment processes are often structurally and epistemologically unable to consider these divergent discourses and the public imaginations of alternative futures they support and constitute.
Number of Pages
Tollefson, Jonathan, "Land Use, Power, and Knowledge at the Northern Resource Frontier: Mining, Public Engagement, and Contentious Land Imaginaries in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta" (2018). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 977.