"A few hundred voters in the remote hills of western Alaska cast ballots this week -- in one of the most closely watched elections in the country -- to halt big mining projects that might poison fishing streams. That initiative was targeted squarely at the giant Pebble Mine.
The anti-mining measure won by less than 40 votes among 526 ballots counted Monday in the sparsely populated Lake and Peninsula Borough. That's where a mining conglomerate hopes to extract 7.5 billion metric tons of gold and copper near some of the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the nation's most important salmon fishery.
Theoretically, the vote means that 280 people in the villages around King Salmon, Alaska, who cast ballots in favor of the initiative can block extraction of an estimated $300 billion worth of gold and copper and veto a project that is one of the Alaskan government's top priorities.
But the issue is quickly going back to court, where a judge in Anchorage will hear arguments Nov. 7 on the legality of the ballot measure."