Browsing through the detritus of news on the internet, I found this quote from Cynthia Carroll, the lady in charge of Anglo American, that old South African company seeking to break the final bonds of apartheid by developing the Pebble Mine in Alaska.
“The proposed Pebble Mine (Alaska) project is an important one that would create many hundreds of jobs in an area where jobs are few. But if I’m not satisfied we can proceed without harm to the local people and the environment, then we simply won’t do it. We will not go where communities are against us.”
Amazing as this statement is, it could be said to be in line with Anglo’s actions a long time ago in South Africa. Owned and controlled by the Opppenheimer family who are so rich they can afford stand aside the uglier currents of mining, Anglo, as I recall, was one of the first mining companies to seek to improve the lot of the Black workers and to seek to bring Blacks into the ranks of the white collar workers. You can do the searching yourself to get the details, but I recall Anglo as the “Liberal in the Room” for they were always out front telling the government they could not succeed as a business if the country tried to continue as a slave state.
Thus a public statement by Cynthia Carroll that they will not proceed with the Pebble Mine if the locals object and they cannot mine without detriment to the environment is in a long line of shocking, but honest deviations from mining orthodoxy by Anglo American.
We welcome her honesty and do not doubt her sincerity, for a statement like this was no doubt vetted at the highest levels in Johannesburg in the Oppenheimer compound.
What this statement means for the Pebble Mine we do not know. Surely it will embolden the opposition and give them reason to marshall their resources and arguments more forcefully than ever. For those who support the mine, it imposes a real burden: truly establish by logic, not emotion, that the mine can be developed, operated, and closed without detriment to the environment. I personally cannot envisage how you deal with the long-term geomorphic instability of the tailings and waste rock dumps and their inevitable entry into the rivers and sea.
Of course Anglo has sunk more than a billion dollars into the Pebble Mine. If they decided not to mine because they could not mine without harm to the envirnment or with the support of local fishermen, they would seek to recuperate this money. They would sell. Probably to a Canadian company or to a Chinese company. Then all hell would break loose. For neither Canadian nor Chinese mining companies have the sensitivity that Anglo appears to have. The Canadian and/or Chinese would proceed far more ruthlessly and with far more colonial/imperialistic vigor. All the Canadians would have to do is threaten to withhold oil to the USA. All the Chinese would have to do is threaten to call in the money the USA owes them. The Palins and others Vichy politicians would soon capitulate.
Thus we must hope for a long Anglo presence in Pebble.