NY State Comptroller Says Pebble Mine Not Worth Risk

Letter Warns First Quantum of “Significant Financial Risk,” Calls Investment the “Antithesis of Sustainable Business Practices”

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli raised concerns over Canadian mining company First Quantum Minerals’ potential investment in the Pebble Mine—a massive open pit gold and copper mine proposed at the headwaters of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

Comptroller DiNapoli called investment in the Pebble Mine the antithesis of sustainable business practices.” He joins an overwhelming majority of residents, commercial fishermen, business owners, and Native communities in Bristol Bay who oppose the mine. Just last week, California Treasurer John Chiang, wrote a similar letter to First Quantum urging it to “sever any connections—financial or otherwise” with the Pebble Mine.

In his letter to Frist Quantum leadership, Comptroller DiNapoli cited the “financial, regulatory, operational, legal, and reputational risks” investment in the Pebble Mine would pose for First Quantum Minerals, including “far-reaching and long-term economic and sustainability risks which may infringe on the rights of indigenous peoples.”

“In my view, participation in the Pebble Project would be the antithesis of sustainable business practices and could create undue risk to the long-term value of the Fund’s investments in First Quantum Minerals and to the sustainability of the Bristol Bay region,” he wrote.

Comptroller DiNapoli is the trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third-largest public pension fund in the United States, with a portfolio valued at approximately $209.1 billion, including 161,407 shares of First Quantum.

First Quantum Minerals is currently debating whether to stake a 50% claim in the Pebble Mine via a $1.5 billion options agreement. (It shouldn’t.) It has agreed to pay Northern Dynasty Minerals $150 million over four years to help fund the permitting process for the mine.

This is an investment fraught with risk.

Comptroller DiNapoli asked First Quantum to comprehensively assess those risks, including potential liability for “environmental damages in the region as well as tortious damages to the regional economy” resulting from the Pebble Mine.

“Further, I expect a corporate commitment that First Quantum Minerals will not proceed with its involvement in the Pebble Project in the absence of full consideration of regional economic and environmental impact and all required licensing,” wrote the Comptroller.

All of the Pebble Mine’s major investors have withdrawn from the project:

  • Mitsubishi in 2011;
  • Anglo American in 2013; and,
  • Rio Tinto in 2014.

First Quantum Minerals should listen to the concerns of its shareholders and do the same.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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