Smaller Pebble Mine plan announced, "wolf in sheep's clothing" to opponents

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BRISTOL BAY (KTUU) - The Pebble Mine will have a significantly smaller footprint and there will be a revenue sharing plan for residents, that’s according to a new plan announced by the Pebble Limited Partnership. The United Tribes of Bristol Bay reacted almost immediately with skepticism: “The people of Bristol Bay viewed the newest plan as merely the latest in a long history of deceptions by the foreign mining company pursuing the project.”

Meanwhile, Governor Bill Walker’s office contacted Channel 2, to say he remains supportive of mining in Alaska but remains unconvinced about the project: “He is not supportive of the Pebble Mine. Pebble must meet the high burden of proof showing that the project will not harm Bristol Bay salmon, and that has not yet been done,” wrote Jonathon Taylor, Walker’s Deputy Press Secretary.

In a presentation given at the Resource Development Council titled, “A new path forward: responding to stakeholder input and demonstrating benefits for all Alaskans,” the Pebble Limited Partnership began by countering its image presented over the years in “biased media” sources.

These are rich copper deposits and miner owners have been good stewards of the land, say the Pebble Limited Partnership.

The first iteration of Pebble was planned to be 13.2 square miles, the second is 5.4 square miles - “close to the Environmental Protection Agency’s most stringent mark,” said Pebble. Debate over what to do with the proposed mine’s tailings has long been an impediment to moving forward. According to Pebble, this new plan includes a redesigned Tailings Storage Facility with enhanced safeguards.

Additionally, there would be no facilities in the Upper Taralik Creek watershed and all facilities that will be used are “designed to withstand the greatest possible seismicity predicted by science.”

An ice breaking ferry would also be used to transport material from mine site to a new port site – leading to reduced wetland impact and a significant reduction in the length of the road, said Mike Heatwole, the Vice-President of Public Affairs with Pebble.

Opponents of the mine remain unconvinced that about the plan to put a copper mine so close to a world-famous Sockeye salmon fishery.

“This is just a wolf in a sheep’s clothing,” said UTBB Executive Director Alannah Hurley. “For more than a decade, the Pebble Limited Partnership has¬ tried to convince Alaskans that it should build a mine in¬ Bristol Bay, at the headwaters of the world’s last great wild salmon runs. In that time, opposition has only increased, and Bristol Bay has been crystal clear on its feelings towards Pebble.”

One of the biggest changes to the project is the revenue sharing arrangement with Bristol Bay residents. A new corporate entity would be set up holding 5% project interest with 50% held by local residents and 50% held by local Alaska native village corporations.

“It includes as many as five participating village corporations with an average annual payment of $500,000 (estimated) each and 5,000 participating Bristol Bay residents with an average annual payment of $500 (estimated),” said Pebble.

The project says it will create between $377 and $420 million in potential revenue over 20-years for the Lake and Peninsula Borough and between $970 million and $1.32 billion in potential state taxes and royalties over the same period.

Hurley, speaking for the UTTB, responded bluntly about the idea of revenue sharing: “This is another attempt by Pebble to purchase support. But, the people of Bristol Bay will not be bought. Our cultures and way of life do not have a price tag. We know that our fishery will continue to sustain us longer than the life of any mine plan.”

Heatwole told KTUU that the Pebble intends to “file permits by the end of this year and hope to have a new partner announced by then.”