Pebble mine opponent tells company’s shareholders in London to rethink plans in Alaska

By Mary Pemberton, AP
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pebble mine opponent addresses shareholder meeting

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaskan chose Earth Day on Thursday to tell a multinational mining company to rethink its plans to develop a huge copper and gold mine near the world’s best wild salmon streams.

Verner Wilson attended Anglo American PLC’s annual shareholder meeting in London to deliver the message, as well as a Natural Resources Defense Council petition with 100,000 signatures urging the mining company to divest itself of the Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska.

Wilson told Anglo American shareholders and executives that the Bristol Bay salmon fishery is a global resource and the fight will continue to protect it.

“When I went up and raised my hand, I conveyed the message that 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose the mine,” said Wilson, who is a commercial fisherman and outreach coordinator for the anti-Pebble group Nunamta Aulukestai, which means “caretakers of the land” in Yup’ik Eskimo.

Wilson made his comments while participating in a teleconference in Anchorage after Thursday’s meeting. He was to be joined by other anti-Pebble forces in London but ash from an erupting Iceland volcano prevented travel. Wilson was vacationing in Paris before the volcano erupted.

The anti-Pebble forces don’t speak for everybody who lives near the proposed mine in southwest Alaska, said Lisa Reimers, who resides 12 miles from Pebble and works for the lliamna village corporation. She and several others representing eight villages nearest to the mine traveled to Anchorage to make their voices heard.

Reimers said they want the process to go forward.

“There is no economy out in our villages. Our villages are dying,” she said. “We have to look at an economic driver like Pebble.”

Anglo American is working in a 50/50 partnership with Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., a Canadian mining company, to develop the mine. The companies are planning on beginning permitting next year.

“Pebble is an early stage project that is some time away from even beginning the lengthy, robust and rigorous permitting and approval processes in Alaska,” Anglo American spokesman James Wyatt-Tilby said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “There is therefore no mine plan at this stage, so it is impossible for anyone to judge the project.”

Rick Halford, a former Alaska Senate president, said he’s heard enough about Pebble and its capacity for an estimated more than 10 billion tons of mineable ore — three times more than the nation’s largest mine in Utah — to know where he stands.

He’s working with the anti-Pebble forces to try and stop the mine from being developed near the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers — the largest sockeye salmon producers in the world.

“The bottom line is that they can’t show you anywhere on earth where this type, this size and this kind of mine has not had major environmental problems,” Halford said.

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