Alaska Native Leaders and Fishermen Tell First Quantum: Dump Pebble Mine
TORONTO—A delegation representing Alaskan business leaders, Bristol Bay Tribes, commercial fishermen and conservation organizations will appear today at the annual meeting of First Quantum Minerals to give shareholders a message: the Pebble Mine is a bad investment.
“Bristol Bay, and the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery it supports, must be protected,” said Robin Samuelson, Board Chair of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. “The Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place.”
First Quantum Minerals is considering whether to become a partner in the project. On May 1st, the deadline for signing an option agreement was extended until May 31st. The agreement would provide $150 million for permitting and give the company the future option to buy a 50% stake in the mine for an additional $1.35 billion.
The massive copper and gold mine, proposed at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, threatens the world’s largest and most productive wild salmon fishery and the 14,000 jobs the fishery supports. Pebble has been roundly condemned locally, nationally and internationally: more than 90% of commenters from Bristol Bay spoke in opposition to the proposed mine at a series of recent EPA hearings, citing the devastating impacts it would have on the people, land, water, and culture of the region; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called it potentially “catastrophic” in its environmental impacts; and the IUCN World Conservation Congress voted overwhelmingly to oppose it, urging the United States government to deny the permits.
The Governor of Alaska, Alaska Native tribes and corporations, commercial fishing companies, restaurants, supermarkets, churches, outfitters, conservation groups and jewelers oppose the mine. Bristol Bay stakeholders placed a full-page ad in today’s Globe and Mail describing the breadth of support for protecting this treasured area from large-scale mining, and putting the company on notice: “First Quantum, We’re Prepared to Fight Forever: Are You?”
“First Quantum should listen to the people of Bristol Bay,” said Mary Ann Johnson of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “Our tribal members have made it clear time and again that we will not sacrifice our traditional way of life and our clean waters for this toxic project.”
A series of other major investors in the proposed Pebble Mine have already withdrawn from the project. Mitsubishi withdrew in 2011. Anglo American withdrew in 2013, citing a desire to focus on projects with the “highest value and lowest risks.” Rio Tinto walked away in 2014, donating all of its Northern Dynasty Minerals shares to two Alaskan charitable foundations.
The states of California and New York, both major First Quantum shareholders, have cautioned First Quantum not to invest in Pebble.
“Putting a mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay will harm salmon,” said Everett Thompson, a commercial fisherman with Bristol Bay Fishermen’s Association. “First Quantum should walk away now because we will not let that happen.”
“The Pebble Mine is one of the most widely condemned mining projects anywhere today—an environmental, social, and economic pariah on a global scale, and a bad long-term investment,” said Joel Reynolds, Western Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If First Quantum stakes its claim in Pebble, it will do so in defiance of scientific consensus, world opinion and overwhelming local opposition.”
“Pebble is too risky,” said Bonnie Gestring, Earthworks’ Northwest Program Director. “Investors say it’s a bad financial risk, scientists say it’s a bad ecological risk, and Native communities and fishermen say it unconscionably risks their traditional way of life and livelihoods that are sustained by the waters and salmon of Bristol Bay. First Quantum should walk away from Pebble for its own benefit, and for the benefit of the people of Bristol Bay and the environment.”
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