Despite the departure of one of the world’s biggest mining companies, the controversy surrounding Pebble mine’s copper-gold deposit will carry on via Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. as Anglo American seeks to slash $17 billion from its pipeline.
And while Anglo’s move, following a 2007-deal, has considerably undermined efforts to construct the open-pit mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay, Northern Dynasty officials voiced enthusiasm in a project anticipated to produce 1 million tons of copper concentrate annually.
Northern Dynasty Chief Executive Ron Thiessen was one. "This is a huge asset — a huge, valuable asset for the state of Alaska," he said, expressing confidence that the mine will be completed by 2023 — alone or through another joint venture.
Anti-Pebble activists, however, claim the mine would cause considerable environmental damage. These include members of the Renewable Resources Coalition, a fishing organization formed against the mine in 2005, who said they will continue supporting a ballot initiative targeting Pebble’s development.
Given the controversy it faces, Pebble is rare in an Alaska which is, overall, a very mining friendly state. So strong is opposition to the project, moreover, that it has inspired alliances between sport and commercial fishermen, Native tribes, corporations, political conservatives, and environmentalists.
But Pebble has its suppporters. For example, Truth About Pebble, consisting of local business and political leaders, has been running a defensive campaign, and one of the state's top labor unions also backs the project. All argue it would generate economic growth in a stagnating region. One study reported that the mine would employ 915 Alaskans over its first 25 years of production and, indirectly, support another 2,000 jobs in the state.
Meanwhile, Thiessen is hopeful for a new partner, noting that, in 2007, "we selected a small group of potential partners and each one of those partners was prepared to do a deal with us," according to Reuters. "So, I suspect there are companies out there prepared to do a transaction with us."