Alaska's Previously Defeated Pebble Mine Project Has a New Investor

The proposed mine, resurrected by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last year, now has financial backing from Canada's First Quantum Minerals.

A new investor, First Quantum Minerals, recently announced a $150 million stake in Pebble Mine, a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. First Quantum Minerals is the fourth potential investor to join the Pebble Limited Partnership, a subsidiary of Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., after the mega-project’s three previous investors—Mitsubishi, Anglo American, and Rio Tinto—backed out.

Pushback from Alaska's indigenous groups, local business leaders, fishermen, and environmental organizations has been consistent since the mega mine was first proposed more than a decade ago. In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama sided with the mine’s detractors, calling the project potentially “catastrophic” and blocking all future permitting requests. Current EPA chief Scott Pruitt reversed that decision in July 2017, allowing the project to move forward in principal, but even he has backtracked (a bit) by acknowledging the project’s risks for the environment.

It’s easy to see why: The proposed site is within Alaska’s pristine Bristol Bay watershed, which is considered to be one of America’s last great wild places. The area hosts the world’s most productive salmon run, supplying half the planet’s wild sockeye salmon, and diverse wildlife, including grizzly bears and bald eagles. Protecting Bristol Bay is also an economic imperative: Its fishery supports 14,000 jobs and generates $1.5 billion annually.

Pebble Mine could produce up to 10 billion tons of mining waste that would forever linger in the rivers, streams, and wildlands of Bristol Bay. The mine would also require the construction of massive infrastructure, including 83 miles of roads, a 230-megawatt power plant, and a 188-mile natural gas pipeline.

Pebble Mine will face hurdles in the form of lawsuits, environmental reviews, and continued public outcry before any ground is broken. How long will it take before First Quantum realizes it’s made a bad investment?

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