Monday, September 16, 2013

Anglo-American Has Their Fill Of Naysaying Alaska Environmentalists, Pulls Out Of The Pebble Mine Project

I knew something like this would eventually happen -- it was only a matter of time before a company would have their fill of whining crybaby Alaskan environmentalists and their knee-jerk opposition to development. On September 16th 2013, Anglo-American Pebble LLC, one of the two partners involved in the proposed Pebble Mine project, became an ex-partner. They announced their intention to withdraw from the Pebble Partnership, which included them and Northern Dynasty, after investing $541 million with no return. As a result, Northern Dynasty will now assume sole responsibility for the project. To retain its 50 percent interest in the project, Anglo American would have been obligated to fund an additional $1.5 billion in project costs through permitting and construction without a reasonable expectation of a favorable outcome.

Anglo-American's statement, attributed to its chief executive Mark Cutifani, was published on the Northern Dynasty website:

"Despite our belief that Pebble is a deposit of rare magnitude and quality, we have taken the decision to withdraw following a thorough assessment of Anglo American's extensive pipeline of long-dated project options. Our focus has been to prioritise capital to projects with the highest value and lowest risks within our portfolio, and reduce the capital required to sustain such projects during the pre-approval phases of development as part of a more effective, value-driven capital allocation model."

Northern Dynasty does not intend to quit. On their website, Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen published this response:

"Northern Dynasty will again own 100% of one of the world's most important copper & gold resources and will have the benefit of $541 million worth of expenditures, which opens the door to a number of exciting possibilities for Northern Dynasty and its shareholders and the Pebble Project and its stakeholders. Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership have both the expertise and resources necessary to advance the Pebble Project."

Alaska Dispatch reported that environmentalists are gloating over the announcement. The World Wildlife Fund issued a statement claiming "When a company is willing to accept a $300 million charge to walk away from a project, it gives you a sense of just how bad of an idea the proposed Pebble Mine really is." The group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay issued a release noting that 900,000 people -- greater than the entire population of Alaska -- had submitted public comments on the EPA's draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, and argued that the vast majority were opposed to mine development. This of course means that Outsiders are attempting to tilt the balance towards environmentalists. And Anders Gustafson, Executive Director of the Renewable Resources Coalition, issued a statement saying “If one of the world’s largest mining companies sees this project as a bad business investment, Alaskans and other mining companies should follow their lead and abandon the proposed Pebble Mine project as well. The State needs to protect the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery and the vibrant fishing industry of Bristol Bay”.

The EPA is considering blocking the mine after releasing a draft study in April 2013 which concluded that even without a major accident, the mine could wipe out nearly 100 miles of streams and 4,800 acres of wetlands in the Bristol Bay region, and also claiming that failures of a pipeline carrying the copper concentrate or a tailings dam holding the mine waste could poison salmon with acid producing compounds or copper. But how does the EPA know this without waiting for the Pebble Partnership's final plan?

Environmental extremists in Alaska, typified by Mudflats, have sought to abort the project even before its properly conceived. They don't even want to allow Northern Dynasty the opportunity to publish their final plan for scrutiny and debate before passing judgment. They are assuming that the Pebble Mine will automatically damage the Bristol Bay watershed upon which the salmon depend. Their arguments and discourse are 90 percent emotion and only 10 percent reason. But the extremists are not necessarily representative of the people of the area. In October 2011, an anti-Pebble Mine ballot measure called the "Save Our Salmon" initiative offered to voters in the Lakes & Peninsula Borough, where the Pebble Mine will be constructed, only passed by a 280-246 margin. Because the State of Alaska believes the initiative usurped the state’s constitutional authority and responsibility to evaluate whether, on balance, development of Alaska’s resources is beneficial to all Alaskans, then-Attorney General John Burns sued the Borough on October 28th, 2011 to recover its costs and attorneys’ fees; the suit is finally being heard in Juneau this month. Josh Van Gorkom, a lawyer representing the Borough, disingenuously claims “We’re not prohibiting mining in the borough. We’re prohibiting harm to salmon”.

Can you understand why Anglo-American finally threw up their hands and said to hell with Pebble? Of course -- environmental extremists have been fighting an endless obstruction campaign, attempting to inflict death by a thousand cuts on to the Pebble Partnership. Worse yet, the Alaska media, with the possible exception of KTUU Channel 2, has all but allowed itself to be coopted by environmentalists. Faced with endless and intractable opposition, industry will eventually begin to pull out of Alaska, and where will our $800 chump-change PFD checks go after that? Building a healthy, viable economy for future Alaska generations requires economic diversification to provide more redundancy. This means mining must be part of the equation. Northern Dynasty cannot afford to rape and pillage Bristol Bay -- they have a reputation and profits to protect. So they will develop the most environmentally-sensitive plan possible.

Alaskan Reaction: Public comments reveal approximately a two-to-one ratio against the Pebble Mine. Typical Alaskan comments and their sources:

Gary Nielsen 6 hours ago (Anchorage Daily News):
This is going to leave an ECONOMIC CRATER behind. Better think of something to replace it. Or the Bay is going to be nothing but Ghost towns occupied by seasonal Sportsman who rather not deal with LOCALS at all.

Charlie Bussell posted at 1:01 pm on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
The Good Lord put both the minerals and the fish streams in the same area...He also gave us the knowledge to develop both for our use....there does not have to be total winners or total losers relating to these every haft full glass we need not always be looking at the half full half empty determination as long as we realize there is room for more in the glass....Alaska is both a fishing and a mining State and we can have more of both with proper management and development..

bfairbanks posted at 4:01 pm on Mon, Sep 16, 2013 (News-Miner):

World wide there are very few fisheries that haven't been seriously degraded and even fewer large scale mines that haven't been cited for pollution. I'd say your argument doesn't hold up to much scrutiny.

Seems more like the devil has put forth the notion that we can have it all and never have to make sacrifices.

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