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April 8, 2014 at 6:45 AM

More wise flight from the Pebble Mine project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

A proposed gold, copper and molybdenum mine for Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay is a truly bad idea. Yet another investor apparently agrees, and is heading to the exit.

Bristol Bay, Alaska (Los Angeles Times photo/Luis Sinco)

Bristol Bay, Alaska
(Los Angeles Times photo/Luis Sinco)

Rio Tinto, described in a Wall Street Journal article as a “mining titan,” is handing off its 19 percent share of the proposed Pebble Mine project to two Alaskan charities. Read about this latest blow to Pebble Mine in a Washington Post story.

Attrition, or erosion, has taken its toll on the project proposed by Northern Dynasty Minerals of Vancouver, B.C. Last September, the London-based Anglo American – one of the world’s largest mining companies – pulled out of the deal.

Investor queasiness is understandable. Public opinion is solidly opposed to a project in a setting that produces millions of sockeye salmon a year, and supports a vast network of jobs in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. The fishery is put at risk by a mine project with a footprint of seven square miles, and the need for waste disposal sites covering 19 square miles.

Earlier this month the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced it would use its powers under the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay and a salmon fishery of global importance.

Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, acknowledged  the  gift from Rio Tinto, but with a reminder:

“Rio Tinto deserves credit for its willingness to reconsider its position in the Pebble Project. This gift provides an example of what open discussion and relationship building between stakeholders with differing views can accomplish. However, BBNC’s opposition to the proposed Pebble mine has not changed.”

The proposed Pebble Mine has attracted stout congressional opposition, described in a June 2013 Opinion Northwest blog post. That added to the economic hazards the investment already faces. As Joel Reynolds, western director of the National Resources Defense Council, noted Monday in a statement, Rio Tinto “has confirmed that the risks of the project are too great and the opposition of the region’s residents too strong.”

Comments | Topics: Pebble Mine, rio tinto, salmon


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