Joe Chythlook is chairman of the board of the Anchorage-based Bristol Bay Native Corporation.
By now, Alaskans have come to the unfortunate realization that the proposed Pebble Mine — a potentially massive gold and copper mine owned by a Vancouver company — is not dead.
A new administration in Washington, D.C. that is taking a vastly different approach to resource management is giving fresh life to a proposal to build a mine in an ecologically sensitive and economically important area of the state.
For many in the Bristol Bay region in southwest Alaska, timing of the Pebble Limited Partnership’s recent settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was ironic. It came just before the start of commercial fishing season — a season in which a near-record 59 million fish passed through Bristol Bay, waters that supply nearly half of the world’s wild sockeye salmon harvest.
The challenge for Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) and its Vancouver-based parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals’ (NAK) is the same as it has been since mining giants Anglo American and Rio Tinto abandoned the Pebble Project years ago. They must find a partner or partners who have the ability, financial resources, and expertise to actually make it through permitting and ultimately build the mine. That is a tall, if not impossible, task.
They must also assuage the very real concerns that most people in Bristol Bay have about the mine. Beginning with NAK’s Bruce Jenkins, Pebble’s backers have promised the people of Bristol Bay they would not build the mine if it could not coexist with salmon. PLP even features prominently on its website a quote from board chairman John Shively: “If it’s a choice between fish and mining, we go away. Fish have to come first.”
For the rest of this column: http://vancouversun.com/opinion/op-ed/opinion-proposed-pebble-mine-a-non-starter-for-alaska