Pebble Mine: Double Speak Questioned by Senator Cantwell

Today Senator Maria Cantwell asked the $64,000 question: Why is Northern Dynasty Minerals, a 50% partner in the proposed Pebble Mine, telling the SEC that it has a mine plan but telling EPA that that it doesn’t?  Which federal agency are Pebble Mine proponents misleading?

In February 2011, Northern Dynasty Minerals submitted to SEC a “Preliminary Assessment of the Pebble Project, Southwest Alaska” (Wardrop report) that provided an economic analysis and environmental footprint of Pebble Mine to its investors.  The Wardrop report described a “large industrial facility” – including an open pit mine, underground mining, tailings facilities – and provided a map of the mine site facilities as well as details regarding associated infrastructure.  It contemplated three development cases – 25, 45, and 78-year plans – and selected the 45-year case as the “base case” for the preliminary assessment. Significantly, it also contained detailed mineral production profiles and financial valuations of the Pebble project.

Yet John Shively, CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, referred to the very same Wardrop report as a “fantasy proposal” when he testified before EPA last August and criticized the agency’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.  As NRDC has blogged before, EPA’s draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment found that the proposed Pebble Mine would threaten Bristol Bay’s famed salmon runs—worth around half a billion dollars annually – and the 14,000 thousand jobs, Alaska Natives, and wildlife that depend on them.

As Senator Cantwell pointed out, “[t]his contradictory use of the Wardrop Report is extremely concerning as it is unclear whether Northern Dynasty Minerals is misleading investors by attracting investment for a “fantasy proposal” or it is intentionally providing fraudulent testimony to the EPA.”

Either Pebble proponents have mine plan or they don’t.  Claiming they have a mine planwith the SEC  to attract investors yet claiming they don’t have a plan with EPA to undermine the agency’s scientific assessment of impacts is double speak. 

The Wardrop report isn’t the only mine plan Pebble proponents must disavow.  Northern Dynasty Minerals submitted permit applications for water rights and dam construction to the State of Alaska in 2006 that also contained detailed plans. Yet now they claim these plans, upon which EPA relied in its Watershed Assessment, are hypothetical.

I’m visiting family this week and asked my six year old niece what would happen if she told her mom one thing and told her dad the opposite.  She said that would be lying and she would get into trouble.

Just like any six year old, the proponents of Pebble Mine should know better.  And they should be held accountable for their double speak.

It’s time to Stop the Pebble Mine.

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