It is a while since I blogged about the Alaskan Pebble Mine. It hardly seemed necessary, for there are literally hundreds of new postings on the topic each day. Both sides are waging a virtual e-war over the issues, invoking Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and the arsenal of the Web, both 1 and 2.
Right now the web battle seems to be tipping in favor of the anti-mining forces. At the end of this posting, I repeat an e-mail that hit my in-box this morning. I have previously blogged about Cynthia Carroll’s amazing statement that Anglo American would not develop the mine if the locals opposed it. Seems like the locals are now going to put Anglo American to the test and try to force Anglo American to validate its integrity and trustworthiness. The suspense is almost unbearable: will or won’t Anglo back down? Will they simply choose to sell their investment in the mine to the Chinese to develop a la Tibet? Then what will the locals do? Or will Anglo agree to be bought by Xstrata who can then renege on Anglo’s promises? Then what will the locals do?
This spectacle of a web (dog) fight between locals opposed to a mine and an international mining company, must be a first. And an important first it is. It will establish the rules of war between opposing forces in the new world of internet battles. It will establish new rules in the game of opposing mines, an activity previously undertaken by picketing, striking, and invoking the authority of the local priest. I bet all the mining industry is (or should be) watching this fight carefully to gauge how they could be the next protagonist. And gauge how best to respond if they are attacked in the same way.
The other side of this battle is the credibility of Anglo American and by extension the mining industry as a whole. If the opposition can establish the facts of local opposition and Anglo proceeds, they will be proven to have lied. Can they afford that? Or will they brand this a Carroll statement and replace her with a credible denier? Thus we ask, is Ms Carroll’s career on the line? Not that she would be the first head of a mining company to depart for bad judgement.
Here is the full text of the e-mail message from Resource_Media@mail.vresp.com that I received today:
Alaskan political, business, and community leaders on Earth Day will challenge Anglo American to explain why it continues to spend millions on a mining project despite fierce local opposition and its own CEO’s public promise to “not go where communities are against us.”
The strong local opposition is based on Anglo American and its Canadian partner’s plans to build the proposed Pebble Mine in the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay – spawning habitat for the most valuable wild sockeye salmon runs on Earth. The wild salmon are a major source of jobs and revenue, and the heart of local Native cultures.
Their stiffening opposition, unusual in the pro-development state, against what could be one of the world’s largest open pit mines has garnered significant international support, including major jewelry retailers like Zales and Tiffany & Co, as well as large class ring manufacturers.
Anglo American officials, who already have spent $323 million on the mine project and who will spend millions more on it this year, have promised that such strong local disapproval would lead them to not continue with its development of the Pebble Mine.
In an interview last year, Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll promised “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,” she has said.
Carroll’s statements echoed a promise she and a former Anglo American board chairman gave to Alaskans in April of last year.
“When we met with CEO Cynthia Carroll and former board chairman Sir Mark Moody, they told us Anglo American would not develop Pebble Mine if local people did not want it,” said Bobby Andrew, who attended the meeting in London. Andrew is a spokesman for Nunamta Aulukestai, a Native organization representing eight tribal villages in Bristol Bay.
In September, a poll revealed that most Alaska Natives who live in Bristol Bay are opposed to the proposed Pebble project. The poll results came just a few months before a regional corporation, which controls large land holdings surrounding the proposed mine and represents local Native residents, passed a resolution opposing the Pebble Mine.
“Why are we ignored?” Andrew asked. “The vast majority of local residents refuse to give up our wild salmon to make mining companies rich.”
Despite the obvious risks and the fierce local opposition to the mine, Anglo American and its partners are forging ahead with the mine proposal.
Permit applications for the Pebble Mine could be filed as early as next year. With gold selling at record highs of up to $1,200 an ounce the incentive for the mining giant to forge ahead is greater than ever.
However, the company has suffered financial setbacks because of the economic recession in the U.S. and Europe. Securing billions of dollars in capital in a tight credit market is increasingly difficult. And additional challenges are mounting:
- Politically significant commercial and sport fishing industries oppose the mine.
- Alaska lawmakers are considering tightening the state’s mine permitting rules.
- Anglo American has been fined for repeated water use violations.
- The U.S. Department of the Interior recently withdrew its consideration Bristol Bay for offshore oil and gas drilling, calling the bay “a national treasure.” Agency officials also could bar mining on lands it manages near the Pebble deposit.
- Legal challenges are piling up.
And an investor advisory released last year by mine opponents detailed a long list of potential risks.
Full contact details for those issuing htis piece are:
Harlin Savage, Resource Media, (720) 564-0500 Ext. 11, (Skype) 020 8133 87694 firstname.lastname@example.org
• Lynda Giguere, Resource Media (907) 771-4020, email@example.com