Pebble Mine Tapes Confirm Risk of Disaster in Bristol Bay
By Joel Reynolds / Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) / September 22, 2020
Shocking videotapes reveal Canadian mining company CEOs boasting to hoped-for investors about influence over government officials to promote massive 200-year Bristol Bay mining scheme disguised for federal permitting as 20-year mine.
I have one overriding question after watching the hour-long “Pebble Mine Tapes” released yesterday by the Environmental Investigation Agency (“EIA”), a DC-based non-profit specializing in undercover investigations:
- Why would anyone entrust the health and future of the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery in Alaska’s Bristol Bay—and the communities and multi-billion dollar economy it sustains—to Tom Collier or Ron Thiessen, CEOs, respectively, of the failed Pebble Partnership and its underfunded Canadian parent Northern Dynasty Minerals (“Pebble”)?
In this latest evidence of incompetence and urgent financial stress that has dogged the beleaguered Pebble Mine for over a decade, the blatant duplicity and stunning lack of judgment displayed by Collier and Thiessen in secretly-videotaped meetings in August and September 2020 with two urgently-needed investors (actually EIA investigators) reach a new low, even in a project whose fortunes have plummeted steadily for over a decade.
The Pebble executives are seen boasting about their political connections, demeaning Alaska’s elected officials, and confirming with virtual “100 percent” certainty that Pebble’s application for a 20 year mine permit is in fact just the first stage of its real plan for a sprawling 180 (to 200 years or more) mining plan.
The 20 year version of the Pebble Mine—the widely-condemned copper and gold mine proposed for southwest Alaska at the headwaters of the multi-billion-dollar Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery—is the focus of a federal permit proceeding before the Army Corps of Engineers in which Collier and Thiessen are hoping to receive a favorable permit decision before the November election.
They aspire to do so despite intense, overwhelming, and sustained opposition for over a decade by 80 percent or more of the residents of the Bristol Bay region
Notably, Collier and Thiessen make a mockery of their self-serving, high profile public statements about the need to keep politics out of the Pebble permitting process—the focus, in fact, of the company’s Fox News ad just a week ago. In fact, in the secret videotapes, they say nothing of their asserted interest in “science-based decision-making” and everything about their wide-reaching political connections and influence—at federal and state levels.
The tapes reveal this as the heart of their sales pitch in a desperate search for urgently needed cash to keep their failing project afloat long enough to get a permit and hopefully recruit some new investors, a new mining partner, or a buy-out.
The people of Bristol Bay aren’t buying it, and yesterday they demanded once again that their elected officials do something about it. According to Alannah Hurley United Tribes of Bristol Bay:
It’s disturbing to hear that Alaska’s senators have been playing politics with Bristol Bay. Our region looked to them for help in stopping a toxic mine that could destroy our communities and cultures, and these tapes indicate that they have only paid lip service to our cause, while allowing a corrupt and inadequate review process to continue. It’s time for the Alaska delegation to listen to their constituents, disavow this project, and help stop Pebble once and for all.
The commercial fishermen of the region agreed, and Katherine Carscallen, Executive Director of Commercial Fisherman for Bristol Bay had this to say:
These recordings have Pebble executives not just confirming the corruption we’ve always suspected, but literally bragging about how they’ve worked behind the scenes with Alaska’s leadership and government agencies to design a process that serves their company. If our Senators hope to restore any public trust in this process, now is the time.
Consider, for example, these excerpts of what the videotapes reveal (emphases added) ——
It gets worse; you’re going to be very disappointed.
It goes all the way to the White House . . .
40 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011