Today, the California State Treasurer, John Chiang, sent a letter to First Quantum Minerals, a potential investor in the proposed Pebble Mine, urging the company to stay out of the controversial project. The State of California is one of the largest shareholders in First Quantum through the state’s pension funds.
In the letter, Chiang says, “I am concerned that the Pebble Mine operation will trigger unavoidable significant environmental and social damage, infringe on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and raise a host of regulatory, operational, legal, and reputational risks for any company that pursues the endeavor.”
The California State Treasurer then calls on First Quantum to: “immediately undertake all measures necessary to sever any connections – financial or otherwise – with the Pebble Project or its owner Northern Dynasty Minerals, including termination of negotiations on a potential option agreement and any further financial payments to the Pebble Project.”
The massive copper and gold mine, proposed at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, is notorious because it threatens the world’s largest and most productive wild salmon fishery and the 14,000 hardworking fishermen who rely on it.
All the other major investors in the proposed Pebble Mine have already withdrawn from the project. Mitsubishi withdrew in 2011. Anglo American withdrew in 2013, after spending more than $540 million dollars to develop the mine and writing down $300 million in additional losses to withdraw, citing a desire to focus on projects with the “highest value and lowest risks.” Rio Tinto walked away in 2014, donating all of its Northern Dynasty Minerals shares to two Alaskan charitable foundations.
The State of California’s letter comes immediately on the heels of the EPA’s surprise announcement on January 29, 2018 that the agency is reversing course and retaining proposed protections put in place under the Obama Administration to protect the world class fishery.
In the EPA press release, it states, “Based on that review, it is my judgment at this time that any mining projects in the region likely pose a risk to the abundant natural resources that exist there. Until we know the full extent of that risk, those natural resources and world-class fisheries deserve the utmost protection. Today’s action allows EPA to get the information needed to determine what specific impacts the proposed mining project will have on those critical resources.”
There’s no doubt that Pebble faces serious hurdles, given the staunch public opposition to the project.
“The Pebble Mine is, and always will be, the wrong mine in the wrong place,” wrote the chairman of the board of Bristol Bay’s Native Corporation—the largest land-owner in the Bristol Bay region representing over 10,000 native shareholders.
First Quantum, which is expected to make a decision soon about whether to invest in the project, says it is currently conducting due diligence.
First Quantum should listen to these important voices.