Written by: Scott Hed, Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska
Editor’s Note: An article on the investing site The Motley Fool yesterday suggests that the mining company behind the Pebble Project, Northern Dynasty Minerals, is in real financial trouble. In fact, the final sentence argues that it is “all but certain Northern Dynasty is dead and about to be buried.” For those of us opposed to Pebble Mine, this would, of course, be promising news, but I am always wary that I’m not getting the full story. So I checked in with Scott Hed, Director of Sportsman’s Alliance for Alaska, to get his read on the article and to offer a year-end assessment of where we stand. Here’s his response:
That’s a great column coming from the investment world.
I think the author paints a fairly accurate picture of the situation. In the past few years, we’ve seen:
• Mitsubishi divest from Pebble
• Anglo American divest from Pebble
• Rio Tinto (the last major mining entity holding shares of the project) announce it is considering its options – including potentially divesting
That’s a pretty damning indictment of the prospects of Pebble being built, by the industry that would be required to make it happen.
Further, the opposition to Pebble remains as diverse and deep as ever. U.S. Senators from across the country have weighed in. The commercial fishing industry from the Pacific to New England to the Gulf has weighed in. We’re now over 1,000 sport fishing and hunting groups and businesses on our side. Resident Alaska natives of the region remain steadfastly opposed to Pebble. Chefs, restaurants, markets, jewelers, religious leaders, etc. all oppose Pebble. Pebble faces more headwinds inside the state of Alaska in the court of public opinion than any major development project in the state’s history.
On top of that, and the author touches on it briefly, the EPA has been engaged for a few years. The Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) has undergone two rounds of public comment (with massive participation, and solid to overwhelming majority of comments in favor of protecting Bristol Bay) and two rounds of independent scientific peer review. EPA announced recently that it intends to release the final BBWA in early 2014.
And that’s where our next challenge lies…
While the final BBWA will likely not differ tremendously from earlier drafts and there’s a strong chance it will continue to be very good for supporting our position – that a major mining project has no place in the heart of the world’s most productive wild salmon fishery – it will carry no force of law or other authority on its own. We must – and we are preparing to do so – use the early months of 2014 to convince President Obama and the EPA to exercise the authority granted EPA under the Clean Water Act to place protective measures on Bristol Bay to ensure this one-of-a-kind renewable resource is not jeopardized.
It’s important to realize that as long as those minerals lie buried beneath the rolling tundra in southwest Alaska there will always be someone looking for ways to get them out of the ground and make a profit. Our best chance to stop this remains with the EPA as described above. If EPA places restrictions on the region, that should give potential investors a lot of pause before opening their checkbook.
Anglers and hunters have played a key role in getting us to this point, and their continued engagement will be critically important as we move closer to our ultimate goal of securing a fishing and hunting conservation victory for the ages.