Pebble Mine’s December Press Releases: Read the Fine Print
Details are scarce, but Northern Dynasty Minerals is proudly trumpeting its success this week in announcing a new investor and, at long last, filing a federal permit application tomorrow—after over a decade of unfulfilled promises that this day would soon come.
Despite all this “good news,” the company’s share value is down significantly for the week to just over $1.80 a share—a far cry from the jump that has been breathlessly anticipated by many of the company’s shareholders hoping to recoup some of the catastrophic investment losses that they’ve experienced over the years with this company.
What happened to the hoped for standing ovation? Why is the market unimpressed?
First, the anticipated partner—First Quantum Minerals—isn’t yet all that much of a partner at all. Soon after Northern Dynasty’s announcement, First Quantum emphasized in a teleconference with its investors that there is no agreement on the terms of an option, there is no certainty that there ever will be, and it is committed to a thorough due diligence process through which it will ultimately decide whether it wants a piece of the Pebble Mine or not. In other words, we’ll have to wait and see. Stay tuned.
Second, as if to prove that it is more about saying it will do something than actually doing something, Northern Dynasty couldn’t resist sending out a press release on its long-promised federal permit application even before the permit application has been filed! Usually, one would expect release would go out only AFTER the hoped for deed had been done—not before.
But that’s not how Northern Dynasty operates. In fact, it isn’t an operator at all. It is a company that, since 2011, has been looking for a buyer in the, thus far, vain hope that it could make some money on the Pebble project and then, as Mitsubishi, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto did in 2011, 2013, and 2014, respectively, disappear.
This isn’t to say, of course, that there will be no application filed tomorrow. But the fine print at the bottom of today’s press release may be more important to investors than the bold-face headline. It notes, for example, at great length and in very small print that “other than historical facts” all statements are considered “forward-looking statements,” which
“should not be in any way construed as guarantees of the ultimate size, quality or commercial feasibility of the Pebble Project or of the Company’s future performance . . . . There is no known ore at the Pebble Project and there is no assurance that the mineralization of the Pebble project will ever be classified as ore. . . .”
Third, and most fundamentally, the application, inevitably, is “garbage in, garbage out.” This is because there is simply no way to ensure protection of the world’s greatest wild salmon ecosystem—producing 60 million fish this year alone—from contamination caused by a toxic open pit copper and gold mine in its pristine headwaters. Although the application will undoubtedly be filled with “forward-looking statements” and confident assurances of engineering excellence and benign coexistence between the fisheries and the mine, the reality is that the decision at Pebble pits essentially an eternal supply of food against an essentially eternal supply of poison—and, as EPA scientists have already documented in extensive detail, they cannot reasonably be expected to co-exist over the time-frame of a major mining project.
Finally, although much is being made by the company of its “smaller” mine design—its plan to segment its approvals in stages of development over 20 years or more—the reality is that once a mine is permitted and constructed, with all of the attendant funding and installation of infrastructure required, there is no way to protect the Bristol Bay watershed. This isn’t just a battle over the Pebble Mine—starting smaller than previously planned and then growing over time. It is a battle over Pebble and every other mining claim that has been staked in the region based on the hope that Pebble will lead the way. If Pebble is approved, the floodgates will open irrevocably, turning what is today the world’s greatest wild salmon ecosystem into just another major mining district.
For as long as it takes, we will fight to defend this eternal food source from what EPA has concluded is “unavoidable” and potentially “catastrophic harm” if the Pebble Mine is built. It’s the wrong mine in the wrong place, and that’s why the people of Alaska don’t want it. Period.
Support the people of Alaska over this Canadian mining company. Protect the Bristol Bay region and its fisheries, and stop the Pebble Mine. Take action now.