Anglo American has abandoned the Pebble Mine Project in Alaska. That much was news to me this morning as I boarded a flight to a mine in a wet climate and sensitive place. By the time we had done the day’s business on this mine and I got to the computer, the blogs and news services were choking with the news. Very little in the way of comment though, so the way is still open for me to say something.
I stopped blogging about Pebble a long while ago–it was more or less like those stories that go on and on, yet never go anywhere. Like the Israel vs Palestine conflict. Or Iran and nuclear weapons. Or Cuba, North Korea, and other unsavory places.
Recall that Cynthia Carroll, former head of Anglo, once said they would pull out of the mine is there was no local support. So it was only a matter of time before Anglo pulled out, for there is no local support. Anglo just had to find a time and reason for pulling out without living up to Carroll’s promise.
Now they have pulled out citing risk and the need to make money instead of spending it on loosing projects that may never come to be any time ever down the pipeline.
It is a perfectly sensible decision by Anglo, albeit an expensive one. Just how long can you throw money at so controversial a project with such strong opposition? How much would it cost to get the EPA off your back and the Republicans in Washington on your bandwagon? Seen from London, it must have looked like an eternity and an infinite sum to boot.
Somebody will say it, so I might as well: just goes to show how concerted opposition to a mine can derail it. For it is hard to see how the remaining owners can do it alone. This pull-out by Anglo is a seminal event, make no mistake about that. It represents a milestone for the mining opposition, and a swagger-away by a mining company, that has no precedent that I can think of.
Whether this victory will embolden mining opponents to Taseko Prosperity Mine, to Pascua Lama, and those other controversial projects remains to be seen. I cannot but think that what they will say they have achieved, will make them more vigorous, not less so.
And what Anglo has done will echo in boardrooms of mining companies, who will be a lot more careful about which mines they buy, buy into, or undertake to start up. The heady days of get into everything that appears to move, are clearly over. Now we can expect a lot more care, conservatism, and cynicism to prevail. And probably for the better. I would like to hear what mines Anglo is going to promote with all the talent that is no longer engaged in Pebble, technical and political.
Dynasty has made courageous statements. Maybe they can keep their share price up. No matter. The much more interesting play will be to see if they can get another partner. I once wrote that once the Chinese enter as partners things will heat up to boiling point. I cannot conceive the next partner will be BHP or Vale. But maybe Glencore or those other South Africans of energy and vigour will underestimate the tenacity of the Alaskans and jump in.
Or maybe now it just is time for Alaskans to speak–to exert the independence they brag about. Maybe it is time for them to tell Canadians and ex-South Africans dressed as Brits or Chinese to go away, stay away, and let us Alaskans do what we choose to do. Maybe it is time for Alaskans to tell Washington DC to piss off; to tell senators from Alabama to go silent; to act so that the EPA does not have to come protect the 99 percent. We wish Alaska well in the debate as to how they are going to act as the state they claim to be.