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September 17, 2013 at 6:51 AM

Out, out Pebble Mine! Investor leaves Bristol Bay pit-mining project

Lake Illiamna, Alaska, in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay salmon run (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times, 2007)

Lake Illiamna, Alaska, in the headwaters of the Bristol Bay salmon run
(Photo by Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times, 2007)

The announcement by Anglo American plc, London, that it is walking away from the Pebble Mine project is great news. The giant open-pit mine would be dug on the edge of the richest group of salmon rivers in the world, which host the Bristol Bay salmon run. This June and July, fishermen—many from Washington—harvested more than 15 million fish there, and that was a disappointing year.

Bristol Bay is America’s mother lode of salmon.

Anglo American was only half the Pebble Mine project, but it was the half with the money. It is based in London and owns mines all over the world. The other half, which now will own the whole effort, is Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. of Vancouver, B.C. Northern Dynasty hasn’t officially thrown down the shovel, but on Monday its shares fell by one-third, to $1.49. Its shares have been going down since 2011 after peaking at around $20.

Northern Dynasty’s web page, written before this announcement, boasts that the Alaskan lode of copper, molybdenum and gold is one of the world’s richest. Being in U.S. jurisdiction instead of some dodgy dictatorship, it was in “a stable and predictable regulatory environment,” which presumably would help it out. The company also noted that there is “broad public support for responsible resource development n Alaska.”

Well, yes. There is broad support, for example, for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and I have written in agreement with that, a March 2005 column and an April 2005 column. But the Pebble Mine is different. Bristol Bay is simply worth too much, both as nature, and as annually recurring jobs and income.

I’ll bet Anglo American sensed that it was never going to get approval to dig that mine because too many people were against it, and with good reasons.

Northern Dynasty should find a way to reach the same conclusion.

Comments | Topics: Alaska, environment

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