MAC: Mines and Communities

Alaska voters say no to gold, copper mine

Published by MAC on 2011-10-25
Source: AP News (2011-10-18)

Can a small local government hold back a large-scale development, despite much bigger political and corporate forces being ranged against it?

That's the question facing voters in Southwest Alaska's Lake & Peninsula Borough who last week passed a ballot resolution banning all large-scale resource extraction, including mining, "that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat".

No-one is in doubt that the measure is aimed at one of the world's most important prospective mines in the vicinity of Alaska's Bristol Bay.

Few people expect the community to triumph over the likes of Anglo American, commercial interests, and some Alaskan native corporations.

However, on November 7, Alaska's Superior Court will begin proceedings to consider the constitutionality of the Lake & Peninsula Borough ordinance.

It promises to be an interesting hearing.

Previous on MAC: Alaska voters decide mining over fish

ESPAÑOL

Alaska voters say no to gold, copper mine

Associated Press (AP)

18 October 2011

Voters of a small southwest Alaska borough late Monday narrowly passed a measure blocking a proposed gold and copper mine that critics say would have threatened one of the world's premier wild salmon fisheries in a local election that gained national attention, pitting environmentalists against business interests in a bitter feud.

The vote bans large-scale resource extraction, including mining, that would destroy or degrade salmon habitat. The measure was aimed squarely at Pebble Mine, a massive gold and copper prospect near the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

The debate surrounding Pebble has attracted the attention of chefs, actor-director Robert Redford and big-name jewelers who have vowed not to sell any gold coming from the operation. Their concerns support local opponents who fear the mine would fundamentally change the area's landscape and disrupt, if not destroy, a way of life.

Supporters of the Pebble project, which has been described as potentially the world's largest man-made excavation, have said that it could create up to 1,000 long-term jobs in economically-depressed rural Alaska and that the project can be "done safely to co-exist with clean water, healthy fisheries and traditional ways of life."

Unofficial results, released by the Lake and Peninsula Borough clerk late Monday, showed 280 in favor of the measure and 246 against.

The proposal was the subject of an intense public fight, and the vote is unlikely to be the last word on whether, or how, the mine is built - a court challenge has already been filed.

Pebble Limited Partnership has argued, in part, that the measure would improperly bypass the role of the local planning commission. The office of Alaska's attorney general has said the initiative would enact an ordinance that is "unenforceable as a matter of law."

A judge has put the case on hold until Nov. 7.

Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole said the company would press ahead with its plans, in spite of the vote and passage of what he said company officials believe to be an illegal law.

Voters were "subjected to a prolonged advertising campaign of fear-mongering and misinformation about the Pebble project," he said in a statement. "We believe this has done a disservice to the people of Southwest Alaska and we will continue our efforts to share our perspective that Pebble can be done safely to co-exist with clean water, healthy fisheries and traditional ways of life, while generating decades of economic and social benefits for the people of the region."

The mine is a joint venture of Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Anglo American plc of the United Kingdom.


Pebble Mine Investors Dealt Serious Blow

Alaskans for Bristol Bay statement

18 October 2011

ANCHORAGE, Ala., - The Canvass Board of the Lake and Peninsula Borough confirmed the passage of the Save Our Salmon (SOS) Initiative. The votes cast on October 4 were counted yesterday in King Salmon and the initiative was approved by a majority of local residents. The initiative will amend the borough's development permitting code to prevent the advancement of any large-scale resource extraction activity, including mining activities, which would destroy or degrade salmon habitats.

The passage of the SOS Initiative effectively halts the development of the proposed Pebble Mine which was expected to be the largest gold and fifth largest copper mine in the world and sit at the headwaters of Alaska's Bristol Bay.

Although SOS received majority support, Anglo American and Northern Dynasty--the foreign-owned mining conglomerates behind the push to develop the Pebble Mine--have filed a lawsuit to invalidate the initiative. This legal action was taken despite Anglo American's CEO Cynthia Carroll stating in a 2009 interview, "We will not go where communities are against us."

"The Lake and Peninsula Borough residents have spoken loud and clear, they do not want the Pebble Mine developed in their community," said Art Hackney, spokesman for Alaskans for Bristol Bay. "In order to suppress the support Save Our Salmon has received, Anglo American and Northern Dynasty must directly contradict their earlier claims that they will only develop where they were wanted. They are not wanted in Bristol Bay."

"The big, foreign-owned mining conglomerates can spend as much money as they want trying to convince shareholders that this mine is viable--but it is not," said Hackney. "Native Alaskans know in their hearts that salmon and large-scale sulfide mining cannot co-exist. And without salmon, the lifeblood of the region, 10,000 years of subsistence fishing, world-class sport fishing and a commercial fishing industry that employs 7,000 workers and generates $300 million a year would disappear."

Alaskans for Bristol BayAlaskans for Bristol Bay is a 501(c)(6) organization dedicated to preventing the destruction of the largest wild salmon fishery on earth. The Bristol Bay headwaters support abundant wildlife, local subsistence with a 10,000 year history, and world class commercial and sport fishing opportunities.

Contact: Art Hackney907-868-1996


We're for local control (except, of course, when we are not)

Carl Pope

Alaska Dispatch

20 October 2011

Voters in the Lake and Peninsula Borough in rural Alaska have voted to block the salmon-threatening Pebble Gold Mine, by a vote of 280 to 246. The company behind the mining project is calling this result "very narrow," although it is actually 53 percent to 47 percent -- not really that close. And surveys by the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, which represents 7,000 indigenous people from the region, show that at least 70 percent of its members oppose the mine. In response to this local sentiment, the two mining giants behind the project continue to make it abundantly clear how little respect they have for the people whose communities they plan to disrupt and perhaps destroy.

Iliamna Lake, the largest sockeye salmon nursery in the world, lies directly in the path of any spill or other mishap that might occur while creating the world's largest man-made pit, potentially covering 15 square miles. Anglo-American and Northern Dynasty, the two partners, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars already and proclaim their find to be the largest undeveloped deposit of its type in the world, with the potential to produce 53 billion pounds of copper, 50 million ounces of gold, and 2.8 billion pounds of molybdenum. The odds of such a project going without error for its 80-year lifespan are unbelievably small. The fishery that's at risk generates far more jobs than the mine would and is worth $138 million a year. The Pebble Mine is simply a bad idea.

The mine's backers have insisted that they will proceed only with local support, which they claim to have. But when the local community placed a measure on the ballot to decide the fate of the mine, the Pebble Partnership went to court to prevent the vote. Although the judge declined to take the measure off the ballot, he did not rule on the related question: whether the local citizens have the right under Alaska law to block this project. Tuesday morning, the Pebble Partnership insisted that the vote of the people would not stop it from proceeding.

The mining corporations have behind them the force and power of the state of Alaska, which has repeatedly insisted that the project cannot be blocked by local citizens. Indeed, in an earlier court case a judge ruled that the state was not required to give public notice before issuing exploratory permits for the project site. He also found the state didn't need to study the potential impacts of the activity first. The state -- and the mining corporations -- have insisted that in this case local people should have no influence at all. That, of course, contradicts the position that the state of Alaska historically takes on issues like logging and oil drilling lands owned by the people of the United States -- in those situations, only local opinion should be taken into account!


Pebble to challenge borough ordinance in Alaska Superior Court

PR Newswire

18 October 2011

VANCOUVER - By a narrow 280 - 246 (53 - 47%) margin, voters in Southwest Alaska's Lake & Peninsula Borough have supported a ballot measure that, if upheld by the courts, would restrict future development that affects more than one square mile of land within the 31,000 square mile borough. The Pebble Limited Partnership (the "Pebble Partnership" or "PLP") and the State of Alaska view the initiative sponsored by anti-Pebble activists as unconstitutional and unenforceable because it seeks to restrict development of state-owned resources on state lands through a municipal ordinance, and will challenge it in Alaska's Superior Court.

"Given the ballot measure's misleading language, in particular its seeming focus on protecting salmon, it's not surprising that it was supported by a slim majority of Lake & Peninsula Borough voters," said Ron Thiessen, President & CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. ("Northern Dynasty") . "Certainly Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership are wholly committed to preserving and even enhancing the fisheries resources of Southwest Alaska. Unfortunately, this initiative would also halt economic development throughout the Lake & Peninsula Borough, and represents yet another misuse of Alaska's democratic processes by paid opponents of the Pebble Project, whose goal is to stop the project before it receives comprehensive and objective review by federal and state regulators.

"What's most important is that the rule of law in Alaska and the United States is clear and reliable, such that this unconstitutional attempt by narrow self-interests to restrict economic development in a region the size of South Carolina will not stand. We believe the State of Alaska's constitutional obligation to manage natural resources on its land for the benefit of all Alaskans will ultimately be acknowledged by the courts."

On November 7, 2011, the Alaska Superior Court will begin proceedings to consider the constitutionality of the Lake & Peninsula Borough ordinance.

In addition to PLP and the State of Alaska, the initiative is opposed by a broad spectrum of Alaska interests, including a group of four Alaska Native village corporations representing seven Lake & Peninsula Borough communities whose private land holdings would be affected by the ordinance. It is also opposed by the Resource Development Council for Alaska, the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Miners Association, Council of Alaska Producers, the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, Alaska Industry Support Alliance, among others.

In a previous legal filing with Alaska's Supreme Court, the State of Alaska stated that "the initiative would enact an ordinance that is unenforceable as a matter of law..." and "will inevitably conflict with, and be preempted by, state law." The state's legal brief also notes: "The Alaska Constitution provides that the state has the policy of encouraging the development of resources by making them available for maximum use consistent with the public interest."

Thiessen said the Pebble Partnership will continue to invest in the State of Alaska with the goal of finalizing a Prefeasibility Study for the Pebble Project and initiating federal and state permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in late 2012. He said PLP's legal challenge of the borough ordinance will advance in parallel with efforts to design an environmentally sound and socially responsible project that co-exists with clean water, healthy fisheries and traditional ways of life in Southwest Alaska.

"The Pebble Project has the potential to create substantial economic and social benefits for the people of Southwest Alaska for decades to come, in a way that enhances commercial and subsistence fisheries and ensures the long-term sustainability of Alaska Native culture," he said. "Pebble simply has too much potential for the region and the state to allow special interests to forestall its development before an optimized mine plan is proposed for the consideration of federal and state regulators and the people of Alaska."

About the Pebble Project

The Pebble Project is an initiative of the Pebble Partnership to responsibly develop a globally significant copper, gold and molybdenum deposit in southwest Alaska into a modern, long-life mine. The project is located 200 miles southwest of Anchorage on state land designated through two public land use planning exercises for mineral exploration and development. It is situated approximately 1,000 feet above sea-level, 65 miles from tidewater on Cook Inlet and presents favourable conditions for successful mine site and infrastructure development.

The Pebble Project consists of the Pebble deposit, surrounding mineral claims and a stream of financing provided by Northern Dynasty's project partner Anglo American US (Pebble) LLC. The Pebble Partnership was established in July 2007 as a 50:50 partnership between a wholly-owned affiliate of Northern Dynasty and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Anglo American plc. Both Northern Dynasty and Anglo American have equal rights of management, operatorship and control in the Pebble Partnership.

Under the terms of the Pebble Limited Partnership Agreement, Anglo American is required to elect to commit $1.5 billion in staged investments in order to retain its 50% interest in the Pebble Project. Funds provided by Anglo American are currently being invested in comprehensive exploration, engineering, environmental and socioeconomic programs toward the future development of the Pebble Project.

About Northern Dynasty

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. is a mineral exploration and development company based in Vancouver, Canada, which holds indirect interests in 650 square miles of mineral claims in southwest Alaska, USA. Northern Dynasty's principal asset is a 50% interest in the Pebble Partnership, owner of the Pebble Copper-Gold-Molybdenum Project. The Pebble Project is an advanced-stage initiative to develop one of the most important mineral resources in the world.

Ronald W. Thiessen
President & CEO


Pebble owners to challenge constitutionality of newest development obstacle

Matthew Hill

Mining Weekly

18 October 2011

TORONTO - Shares in Northern Dynasty, the Canadian joint owner of the controversial Pebble Project in Alaska, gained on Tuesday after the company said it would challenge a new effort to block development of the project.

Voters in the state's Lake and Peninsula borough supported a measure that could block developments bigger than one-square mile.

The Alaska Superior Court will begin hearings to decide on the constitutionality of the initiative on November 7, the TSX-quoted company said.

Pebble's joint owners and the State of Alaska see the move as "unconstitutional and unenforceable", Northern Dynasty said. Anglo American holds a 50% stake in the project.

They are challenging the ballot measure because it seeks to curb development of Alaska's resources on State-owned lands using a municipal ordinance.

According to Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty, 280 voters in the Lake and Peninsula borough, that hosts the Pebble deposit, were in favour of the measure, while 246 were against it.

"Given the ballot measure's misleading language, in particular its seeming focus on protecting salmon, it's not surprising that it was supported by a slim majority of Lake & Peninsula borough voters," said Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen.

The Pebble project, one of the world's biggest undeveloped gold-copper resources, has run into stiff opposition from local groups and landowners, who argue its development would threaten salmon populations at a water headway at Bristol Bay.

The Alaska Superior Court on September 26 threw out a case a group of nonprofit organisations brought against the state claiming exploration activities at the Pebble site were damaging the environment.

Northern Dynasty dipped 4% to trade at C$7.10 a share on the TSX by mid-morning, rebounding strongly to change hands at C$7.91 as at 14:29 - a 7% gain.

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