Pebble Mine: Into the Lion’s Den

Opponents of the Proposed Mine Spoke Out at Shareholder Meeting

Junior Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Mineralsowner of the beleaguered Pebble Mineheld its annual shareholder meeting in Vancouver last week. We were there, too, to deliver a message of relentless opposition to the ill-conceived project.

Taryn Kiekow Heimer (left) and Gayla Hoseth (right)

Proposed for construction in the headwaters of the world’s most productive wild salmon fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska, the Pebble Mine would threaten the entire region—its people, its salmon, and the multimillion-dollar economy it supports. Wild salmon in Bristol Bay generate $1.5 billion annually, fuel Alaska’s economy, support 14,000 jobs, supply half the world’s sockeye salmon, and feed indigenous communities.

The people of Bristol Bay and Alaska overwhelmingly oppose the Pebble Mine. Not only does it threaten the salmon that have sustained its communities for generations, but it threatens their very existence.

Gayla Hoseth, life-long subsistence fisherwoman and longtime opponent of the Pebble Mine, delivered that message directly at Northern Dynasty Minerals’ shareholder meeting—a small, low-key affair, convened around a conference room table.

Gayla Hoseth

Gayla is the Second Chief of the Curyung Tribe and the Director of Natural Resources for the Bristol Bay Native Association (BBNA), which represents 31 tribes in the Bristol Bay region.

She listened politely as the Board conducted its business and followed intently as Pebble CEO Tom Collier presented a PowerPoint touting a “Clear Path Forward” to permit the mine.

Collier’s presentation, which applauded the U.S. Army Corps’ rush to permit the mine, did nothing to assuage Gayla’s longstanding concern about the impacts of the mine.

After the presentation, Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen answered questions and made sweeping claims:

  • Regarding dilution of shares, “I’m not going to dilute.”
  • Regarding partnering, “at the right time, we will bring in the best and highest quality partner.”
  • Regarding economic feasibility, “we haven’t determined” when to produce a feasibility study.
  • Regarding fish habitat, “we will make it better than it is now.”
  • Regarding the fishery, it is a “physical impossibility” for Pebble to harm it.

After all the shareholders had exhausted their questions, Gayla formally introduced herself.  She noted pointedly that Collier had failed to mention the overwhelming opposition from groups like BBNA, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation, the largest native-owned developer in the region.

She delivered copies of BBNA’s latest resolution opposing the Pebble Mine. It urges the Army Corps to deny Pebble’s permit.

She spoke passionately about the unyielding opposition the project faces from people in the region:

“We are not going away. We will continue to fight. This is our home. I live on my ancestral lands and I will protect it.”

Gayla faced a barrage of angry questions from shareholders and board members alike.

“Where do you live?” asked Thiessen, pointing out that Dillingham is 100 miles away from the mine site.

“Directly downstream of all of the mine’s impacts” Gayla smartly replied. She then issued an invitation to all the shareholders and directors to visit and learn why 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents oppose the mine. “I would be happy to talk to any of you,” Gayla said.

This opened the floodgates for seemingly frustrated and angry shareholders, who directed a number of questions at Gayla and me. (I had asked Collier and Thiessen about when shareholders could expect an economic feasibility study to support its “smaller” mine plan – once promised by Collier by the end of 2018. “We haven’t determined definitely when it will be done,” replied Thiessen.)

Other shareholders proclaimed they were “very proud to own shares” and showered praise on Northern Dynasty Minerals.

As the meeting spiraled closer to outright insult, Collier asked whether there were any questions for him or Northern Dynasty management. Hearing none, he quickly adjourned the meeting, which lasted just over an hour.

Gayla had braved the lion’s den to deliver an important message of resistance from her people.  The utter lack of respect for her was astounding.

Let’s not forget the project’s sad track record:

  • Northern Dynasty’s share price has dropped nearly 50% this year alone.
  • Every Pebble partner associated with Northern Dynasty has chosen to walk away. Pebble has been abandoned by Mitsubishi Corporation in 2011, Anglo American in 2013, Rio Tinto in 2014, and First Quantum Minerals in 2018.
  • The Pebble Mine is condemned internationally as one of the most reckless projects anywhere.

Like other leaders from Bristol Bay, Gayla Hoseth demonstrated Alaskans’ overwhelming opposition to the Pebble Mine.

As we left the lion’s den, she underscored her commitment:

“We are never going away.”

Click here to show your support for all of those who oppose the Pebble Mine.

About the Authors

Taryn Kiekow Heimer

Deputy Director, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Nature Program

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