By Christopher Hopkins, The Saint Consulting Group
The infamous Pebble Partnership mining proposal in Bristol Bay, Alaska could be reaching the end of the road. At the very least it has had some very significant hurdles placed in front of it on its quest for approval. The highly contentious mining proposal has been debated for the past 10 years and at a current cost to the partnership of over $500 million. The deposit includes an estimated 107.4 million ounces of gold, 80.6 billion pounds of copper and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum with a total estimated value depending on market fluctuation of around $400 billion.
Over the past six months Pebble Partnership has received one blow after another in their effort to obtain the needed approvals and with their permitting efforts. In October the largest single member of the partnership, Anglo American, who owned 50% of the company, divested itself of the program and walked away. In December, Australian based mining company, Rio Tinto, who owns 19% of current partnership majority owner Northern Dynasty, announced that it is studying the impact of divesting themselves of the project. The result of these announcements led to significant staff layoffs from the partnership in the fourth quarter of 2013. The partnership needs to attract someone to replace the $300 million that Anglo American had committed and spent on the efforts to this point.
This past week the future of the partnership’s efforts was hit with two significant blows. First the Federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a long awaited final report on the Bristol Bay Watershed that said, “The impact of the Bristol Bay mine could be devastating”. The 630-page report highlights the significance of the fishing industry and the world wide salmon supply that exists in the bay. The study looked at the long term impacts on the watershed and fishing industry of large scale mining activities.
The second blow came with the announcement of US Sen. Mark Begich, (D-AK), that he would oppose any federal efforts to permit the mine. He joins a rather diverse group of prominent Alaska politicians including the late US Senator Ted Stevens, (R), former governors Tony Knowles, (D) and the late Jay Hammond, (R) who believed that the “Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place for Alaska”.
The Saint Report has carried reports on Pebble Partnership in 2013 and in 2012, and it is unknown what the future holds for the Pebble Partnership and its efforts to move forward. Click here for a recent report by The Cordova Times – http://www.thecordovatimes.com/article/1403epa-says-impact-of-bristol-bay-mine-could-be.
Christopher Hopkins is senior vice president for mining and aggregates for The Saint Consulting Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.