Pebble Mine: Down to Lawyers, Lobbyists and Legislators – by Taryn Kiekow (Huffington Post – April 28, 2015)

Taryn Kiekow is a Senior Policy Analyst, NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection.

Pebble Mine is not grabbing headlines these days, but the battle to protect Bristol Bay is far from over.

In contrast to the significant headlines and victories in 2014 — Rio Tinto withdrawing from the project; EPA proposing specific restrictions on the development of Pebble Mine; Alaska voters passing an initiative aimed at protecting the Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale mining, which is harmful to Alaska’s wild salmon; and President Obama declaring Bristol Bay off-limits to oil and gas drilling — 2015 has been deceptively quiet.

All the major investors — Mitsubishi, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto — have fled the project, taking massive losses to walk away from Bristol Bay, and Pebble has been unable to find another moneyed partner to advance the project. This leaves junior mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals, now the sole owner of the project, with a serious cash-flow problem.

But the company hasn’t given up on its dreams to build a colossal mine at the headwaters of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery. Last January, with the sale of special warrants to existing investors, it raised about $15 million — almost half of which came from a hedge fund in the Cayman Islands.

Where is the money going? Not to mining but to lawyers and lobbyists. According to a prospectus filed with Canadian securities regulators, Northern Dynasty Minerals plans to use that money to advance a “multi-dimensional strategy to address the EPA’s pre-emptive regulatory process under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act … includ[ing] three discrete pieces of litigation against the EPA … as well as facilitation of various third-party investigations of EPA actions with respect to the Pebble Project.”

Yep, like a terminal patient on life support, Pebble Mine is all about “staying alive” — which translates into the nicely alliterative trio of lawyers, lobbyists and legislators.

Lawyers. Pebble filed three lawsuits against EPA, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes. The first suit, alleging violations of Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, was dismissed last year. Not surprisingly, Pebble immediately filed an appeal, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on May 14 in Anchorage, Alaska.

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