The Pebble Mine is not dead

Changing political climate puts Bristol Bay at risk

Jan 13, 2017

 

Pebble is not dead.

The Canadian conglomerate that wants to mine in Bristol Bay continues to pay lobbyists. It continues to tout the Pebble deposit as “one of the greatest stores of mineral wealth ever discovered.” It continues to complain about the burden of permitting.

Yet, clearly, the permitting process has given Alaskans a voice.

Nearly two years ago, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that Alaskans have a right to know about and have a say in how state land is used for a project like Pebble. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit Trustees for Alaska filed on behalf of our clients in 2009. We argued that the Alaska Constitution requires the Department of Natural Resources to provide public notice before issuing land use permits to Pebble.

ProtectBristolBayLukeStricklandJuly2010-smallerThe court agreed.

Making sure that Alaskans can speak their minds is what holds government and industry accountable. When it comes to Pebble, the people of the Bristol Bay region overwhelmingly oppose the mine, and the majority of Alaskans agree.

Because of the public process now required for Pebble, DNR will look at and assess more than 1,000 comments before making a final permitting decision. The agency decided last month to give Pebble a 90-day extension on its existing permit so that it can evaluate those comments. That could be good news for Bristol Bay if DNR incorporates the concerns of those who live and work in the region into the permit for Outsiders looking to profit.

Public opposition to Pebble has protected the Bristol Bay watersheds, fisheries and communities for the last decade, but the political landscape is changing. Stock values for Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., the corporation proposing the Pebble mine, have recently jumped. Shares that sold for 35 cents in July now sell for $2.

The changing political and regulatory climate after November’s election has generated renewed interest in the mine, and Northern Dynasty continues to make it clear that it’s looking for new investors.

“Northern Dynasty might feel they have an advantage right now,” said Michelle Sinnott, Trustees’ attorney working on Pebble. “They may think they have a minimum of four years, as many as eight, to move forward and push the mine through.”

Trustees is watching, monitoring, and holding our agencies and leaders accountable. We ask that you do the same.

“Vigilance is critical,” said Sinnott. “We need to keep reminding DNR and Alaska’s leaders that the people in the region don’t want this, that the mine is too risky, and that allowing continued exploration at Pebble is not the way to be a good steward of our state’s resources.”

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