Controversial Pebble mine project loses half of its partnership

In a move that might spell the death of the controversial Pebble mine project, Anglo American on Monday withdrew from the Pebble Mine partnership.

The project about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage seeks to develop immense open-pit gold and copper mines in one of the last big wild salmon runs in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

A company statement said Anglo American’s withdrawal leaves the company with a $300 million loss and former partner Northern Dynasty Minerals of Vancouver, Canada, controlling the project.

The companies have said the copper, gold and other resources on Bristol Bay are worth an estimated $300 billion.

Controversy over the project has made for a high-stakes public-relations battle with residents of the region split between the potential of new jobs and the possible damage to the fishery.

Critics of the project say the mine’s proposed location presents a risk to the Bristol Bay watershed and salmon fishery, one of the most lucrative fisheries in the world.

It’s estimated that every summer, 30-40 million sockeye salmon return to the bay to spawn.

According to Trout Unlimited, Bristol Bay supports 12,000 commercial and sport fishing jobs and each year generates nearly $450 million, with sport fishing responsible for upwards of $160 million of that.

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency, in an assessment of the potential impacts on Bristol Bay fisheries, said even barring a major mishap, damage to salmon runs were a likely side effect of mine development.

Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said the company was seeking other investment opportunities.

In a news release Monday, Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited’s Alaska Program, called on the EPA to protect the fishery from mining.

“I can’t think of a development project in the state’s history that has faced such wide and deep opposition from the citizens of Alaska,” he said.

In 1972, Alaska’s legislature recognized the area’s value and established the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

Northern Dynasty chief executive Ron Thiessen said the project would continue.


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