Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Undercover Investigators Tape Pebble Executives Boasting of Their Political Influence

Top executives of a Canadian mining company determined to develop a mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay in western Alaska have acknowledged plans for a project that would continue operations for 180 to 200 years.

Their words came in video-taped conversations with members of a Washington D.C. based Environmental Investigation Agency, who posed as potential investors. Video tapes released on Monday, Sept. 21 by EIA also contained details of Pebble’s apparent plans to open up other large areas of western Alaska to mining, including the Donlin Gold mine in the Yukon Kuskokwim region of western Alaska.

The “Pebble Tapes” (

are interviews with Ronald W. Thiessen, chief executive of Northern Dynasty Minerals, the parent company of the Pebble Limited Partnership, and Tom Collier, chief executive of the partnership, who thought they were speaking with potential investors.

These tapes, said Alexander von Bismark, executive director of EIA, “show that potential investors are given an entirely different vision for this massive mine than the government and the public.”

PLP spokesman Mike Heatwole in Anchorage said that the mining firm had not had an opportunity yet to review the tapes, “but I can tell you what we’ve seen reported in these tapes thus far is not inconsistent with the position that Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership have taken for the past several years.” Heatwole said that plans are to permit and develop a mine with a 20-year life and clearly defined footprint, but that there would be potential for subsequent phases of development to be permitted in the future.”

The video tapes show Thiessen telling the investigators “once you have something like this in production why would you want to stop?”   Collier said that opening up the Pebble deposit could help pave the way for the Donlin gold mine. “If you flip the Pebble switch on it’s likely that you may also be flipping on the Donlin switch,” he said.

Reaction from the environmental entity SalmonState was swift. “From their manipulation of the Alaska governor’s office to the truth of their plan for a massive 200-year mine, to cozy relationships with the Army Corps and EPA political appointees, it’s clear they will stop at nothing in their plans to build a toxic mega-mine at the headwaters of the greatest sockeye salmon run left on the planet,” said SalmonState’s Rachel James.

“It’s hard to say what is the most astonishing thing about that whole series of recordings,” said former Alaska Senate President Rick Halford, a Republican and mine opponent. “If I had to pick out one, it would be just amazing arrogance. To explain how you have corrupted the process to a potential investor and why you are going to succeed, it is just kind of amazing.”

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