Rio Tinto Says It May Divest from Pebble Mine Project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

NRDC: EPA Still Needs to Reject the Copper and Gold Mining Proposal

WASHINGTON – (Dec. 23, 2013) – Rio Tinto, the London-based global mining company, today publicly announced that it is considering “divestment” from the massive, ill-conceived Pebble Mine project, a controversial proposal to mine gold and copper at the headwaters of the pristine Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery.

The following is a statement by Joel Reynolds, Western Director and Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

``Rio Tinto’s affirmative public announcement that it may divest  from the Pebble Mine is a clear signal that it’s looking for the exit. By explicitly citing its currently producing and developing copper assets, Rio appears to be recognizing the unique environmental risks to the Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery, the overwhelming local opposition to the project, and the inconsistency of those factors with its own economic interests and standards for development.’’

Rio Tinto’s public statement follows a joint letter on Friday urging divestment sent by California State Controller John Chiang and New York City Comptroller John Liu to Sam Walsh, the company’s CEO. Both Chiang and Liu are trustees of huge pension funds that are significant long-term Rio Tinto shareholders, with a combined assets of $569 billion.

“Rio Tinto’s announcement is the latest indication from the mining industry itself that Bristol Bay is no place for large-scale mining.  It reaffirms the urgent need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority now under the federal Clean Water Act to prohibit the proposed Pebble Mine or any other large-scale mining project  that would threaten the Bristol Bay fishery. The head of the watershed of the greatest salmon fishery on the planet is no place to gamble on one of the largest mining operations ever conceived. It is simply the wrong mine in the wrong place -- as Anglo-American realized last September, as Mitsubishi realized in 2011, and as Rio Tinto is recognizing today," Reynolds said.