First impressions are often telling.
Inletkeeper first met with Northern Dynasty in Homer in 2005, before the Candian junior mining interest – which had never before developed a mining project – formed the Pebble Limited Partnership.
The meeting was cordial but somewhat fraught, because Northern Dynasty had recently announced plans to dig a massive hole in the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s salmon fisheries, and it wanted to run its new mine using power from our local utility, the Homer Electric Association.
Things turned weird, however, when the Northern Dynasty folks hopped into a van with some of Homer’s political leaders to leave the meeting, and they accused Inletkeeper of secretly taping the meeting.
Like most communities in Alaska, Homer is a small town, and within minutes Inletkeeper caught wind of the false accusation. And all we could think about at the time was how clueless and out of touch the Pebble people were with Alaska and Alaskans.
Fast forward to earlier this month – when Pebble announced plans to pay-off Bristol Bay residents with a new “dividend” program – and the same deep disconnects surfaced again.
The Pebble Partnership’s announcement comes at an auspicious time for the Outside mining company. It’s running on financial fumes, continually diluting its stock to generate the revenues needed to limp through the federal permitting process. But Pebble has big problems: Alaskans overwhelmingly oppose the project, and investment is scarce after four major mining interests walked away from the project with serious concerns.
So, in a desperate hail-mary effort to win social license – and in a bald-faced effort to further divide the local community with the spector of quick cash – Pebble dangled the promise of a dividend to rural Alaskans. Not surprisingly, the push-back from local residents and leaders was swift and damning:
“Bristol Bay has long-opposed this project because of the devastation it will cause to our lands, waters and people. Empty promises of cash will not change our minds on this project. Here in Bristol Bay, we know that our way of life is more precious than gold, and we will not allow a foreign mining company to devastate our cultures and communities,” said Ralph Andersen of Bristol Bay Native Association.
“This is just an eleventh-hour desperate attempt by Pebble to make empty promises offering breadcrumbs to the very people whose lives will be ruined by this project. Breadcrumbs the company can’t even afford to spare as they’re going broke and desperately trying to fundraise just to get through permitting. We see through this desperation by Pebble and aren’t falling for their empty promises, Pebble cannot be trusted. Our resolve to fight this project is only strengthened by their disrespectful and transparent attempts at bribery,” said Norm Van Vactor of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation.
Of course, the irony here is that Pebble’s so-called dividend offers rural Alaskans mere baubles while the company’s leadership stands to rake in millions if the Trump Administration quickly issues permits.
In fact, Pebble CEO Tom Collier stands to enjoy a $12 million “extraordinary bonus” if Pebble obtains its federal permits this summer, while Alaskans who sign up for Pebble’s generous “dividend” will get $1000 to start if everything works out as planned.
Pebble’s audacity is of course amazing. It’s been 15 years since we first sat down with the Pebble people at our office in Homer, and through all this time – after countless meetings and hearings and comments – the Pebble people remain just as tone deaf to the concerns of Alaskans as the day they started.
And that’s why Alaskans will never allow Pebble to destroy Bristol Bay’s prolific fish runs and the people, cultures and economies they support.