The Pebble Blog

The gigantic Pebble copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska is one of the touchiest topics in Alaska today.

In this blog, I'll track news that is significant or interesting about the Pebble project. I'll also try to generate discussion and information sharing about some of the claims and counterclaims about the project, and mining in general.

Please keep your comments courteous and on topic. If you violate the ADN comment policy, your posts will be deleted.

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About Elizabeth Bluemink ebluemink@adn.com

I've been writing about mining in Alaska since 2004 and without a doubt, it is one of the most interesting topics that I cover at the Daily News. I've been a newspaper reporter for the past 10 years. In the Deep South, I specialized in reporting about environmental conflicts and pollution cleanups. For two years, I covered commercial fishing, mining and logging in Southeast Alaska. In my current job as a Daily News business reporter, I write about mining, tourism, Native corporations and other businesses.

Pebble and the volcano (updated) - 4/19/2010 11:49 am

Lawyers debate Pebble - 4/15/2010 5:12 pm

New geology report on Pebble - 4/8/2010 1:45 pm

An independent study of Pebble? - 4/6/2010 9:50 am

APOC drills into anti-Pebble election spending - 2/26/2010 12:06 pm

New profile of Pebble foe Bob Gillam - 2/24/2010 11:02 am

Pebble, villages, fuel - 2/18/2010 4:03 pm

Pebble water-use violations - 2/15/2010 5:26 pm

Pebble and the volcano (updated)

Iceland volcano hampers anti-Pebble activistsIceland volcano hampers anti-Pebble activists

UPDATE: John Shively, chief executive of the Pebble Partnership, also planned to attend the Anglo shareholder meeting but has not been able to fly to London due to the volcanic eruptions. He attended the previous two Anglo annual meetings, according to a Pebble spokesman.


Anglo American, the London-based mining company backing Pebble, is hosting its annual shareholder meeting this week in London, and for the second year in a row, opponents of Pebble are trying to grab the attention of Anglo leaders and shareholders by going to the meeting and making a PR push in the British media.

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Lawyers debate Pebble

The Alaska Bar Association's Native law section hosted an informal discussion of legal issues involving Pebble this week.

I was one of a few non-lawyers who attended the session. The two attorneys who presented were Jeff Parker, who represents some Native organizations and conservation groups opposed to Pebble, and Susan Reeves, an attorney who represents the Pebble Partnership on some legal matters. Both are longtime Alaska attorneys.

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New geology report on Pebble

The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys has published a 25-page report on the surface geology of the Pebble deposit. Emphasis on the word surface: it discusses the impact of glaciers on the land rather than probing what happened underground to create Pebble's ore deposits. It doesn't discuss nearby earthquake-producing faults, either.

The report was commissioned and funded by the Pebble Partnership.

To read it, click here.

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An independent study of Pebble?

ADN political reporter Sean Cockerham has a story today about the possibility that money for a proposed PR push on endangered species could be diverted to a scientific study of Pebble's impacts.

That is, unless legislators decide instead to use the money to help replace the legislative building in Anchorage.

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APOC drills into anti-Pebble election spending

The Alaska Public Offices Commission is deliberating today in Juneau on whether to settle a campaign-finance law complaint filed against Anchorage businessman Bob Gillam and several advocacy groups for how they funneled money to a 2008 ballot-measure fight involving Pebble.

In October, APOC turned down a proposed $35,000 settlement of the case.

In today's hearing, the APOC panel listened to lawyers for both sides argue over whether the panel should accept a proposed $60,000 settlement. In a recent filing, APOC staff say they support a settlement but say it shouldn't be any less than $100,000.

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New profile of Pebble foe Bob Gillam

The Alaska Magazine, based here in Anchorage, has published a profile of Bob Gillam, Pebble's billionaire bête noire.

Here's a link to the article.

And here's an excerpt:

After an overcast morning spent flying a photographer and reporter from Anchorage to the sprawling lodge, Gillam was ready to switch from gracious host to educator and talk about why people shouldn’t think what they think: That he’s a turncoat, a longtime supporter of conservative politics who has allied himself with conservationists, of all people. That after 20 years of avoiding reporters since the Home Savings fallout, he has joined the public speaking circuit, presenting to organized business groups state-wide, preaching the case against Pebble.

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Pebble, villages, fuel

The Alaska Department of Law today published a report on rural fuel prices with a detailed discussion about prices in the Bristol Bay region and the recent efforts by an Alaska Native-owned Pebble contractor to begin a fuel delivery business. (The contractor, Iliamna Development Corp. received a $2 million bridge loan from the Pebble Partnership, according to state records).

Here's what the report says:

There are several villages around the Illiamna Lake area that receive fuel from Crowley. Fuel was historically barged up the Kvichak River from Bristol Bay and stored in a facility owned by Yukon Fuel Company. Crowley purchased this facility in 2005 as part of its acquisition of Yukon. In the last couple of years, the water level in the river has been too low for barge deliveries, and Crowley has been flying fuel to Illiamna from Homer. One village located just off Illiamna Lake reported a retail sales price for heating fuel of $8.11 in July 2009. The cost of air delivery appears to account for most of this expense, and our review of Crowley’s confidential financial statements suggests the cost was not excessive.

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Pebble water-use violations

On Friday, I filed this story about unauthorized water usage by Pebble drilling crews over the previous three years.

The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, which is fining the Pebble Partnership for violating state rules, recently told company officials they probably would have permitted the water usage if applications had been made properly. Pebble officials say it was all a big misunderstanding about overlapping permits. It's worth noting that last year, the actual water use by Pebble turned out to be quite a bit less than the amount it had permission to use. I'm asking for information about the prior years, too.

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Fisheries board weighs in on Pebble permitting

Today I'm working on a story about a just-now-completed letter that the Alaska Board of Fisheries is sending to state House and Senate leaders about the Pebble project.

In the letter, the board asks the lawmakers for a comprehensive evaluation of the state’s permitting protections and standards in light of Pebble.

“While the BOF recognizes that no specific permitting plan has yet been proposed for the development and operation of the Pebble Mine, the board is still very concerned about the Pebble Mine development because of its potential magnitude,” the letter states.

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EPA reviews mining rules

There's been talk lately about how the Obama administration is dealing with recent debate and litigation over Army Corps of Engineers permits that have been issued to fill in natural water bodies with rock waste from coal mines in Appalachia and the Kensington gold mine in Alaska. Federal rules were changed to allow such discharges during the Bush administration. According to a recent Rolling Stone profile of EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, another rule change might be in the works. (See page 2 of the story, which specifically refers to mining disposal practices in Alaska.)

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Pebble won't apply for development permits in 2010

That's the word from the Pebble Partnership during a recent public debate about the proposed mine in Dillingham. It's a delay in the company's previous permitting schedule.

To listen to Mike Mason's public radio story about the debate, which featured Pebble Partnership chief executive John Shively, former state Sen. Rick Halford, and others, click here.

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Dillingham vote on Pebble

The Dillingham City Council voted 5-1 last Thursday to oppose "all large scale mining" including Pebble in the Nushagak and Mulchatna rivers watershed. The drainages empty into Bristol Bay below Dillingham.

The city council also voted against applying for or accepting grants from the Pebble Fund, a charitable endowment for Bristol Bay community organizations created by the companies attempting to develop Pebble.

The Bristol Bay Times explained that the city council already opposes Pebble, but decided to vote on whether it would accept money from the Pebble Fund. The issue came up after a local hockey group received such a grant, and wanted the city to channel the money.

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Upcoming state-led talk about copper toxicity

Some Alaskans have said that if the Pebble mine goes forward, the state first should review its water quality standard for copper, which at certain concentrations can harm a salmon's sense of smell, researchers say.

Looks like that review is underway.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game this year completed a literature review of copper's effects on aquatic life.

In early February, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation plans to host a panel discussion about the state's water quality criteria for copper at the Alaska Forum on the Environment in Anchorage.

read more »

Native corps speak out on Pebble **Updated **

Update: As more Bristol Bay entities speak up in support or against the BBNC resolution, I plan to revise this post.

12/17/09
* Nunamta Aulukestai, a group governed by the presidents of eight village Native corporations in the Bristol Bay region, is applauding the BBNC decision.
* Three other village corporations (Iliamna Natives Ltd., Kijik Corp. and Paug-Vik) criticized the BBNC decision.

Links to the all of the statements are attached below.

By ELIZABETH BLUEMINK (ADN Dec. 15 story)

Two Bristol Bay village corporations that own land near the massive copper and gold Pebble prospect said Tuesday they are outraged by their regional Native corporation’s decision to oppose the proposed mine.

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Pebble doles out grant money

The Pebble Fund, a charitable fund created by the companies trying to develop the proposed mine, recently announced it is giving $600,000 to 18 groups this winter.

The Pebble Partnership says the funding demonstrates its commitment to providing benefits the region where it hopes to build the massive mine, but the foes of Pebble say the money is an attempt to buy people's support.

In the latest round of giving, the biggest dollar-amount recipient was the city of Nondalton, where some tribal leaders oppose Pebble (The city and tribal council co-signed an anti-Pebble resolution in 2005). The fund previously awarded $1 million to 33 groups last March. A third cycle of awards is expected in the spring. Here's the details:

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Hardrock mineral exploration, 07-09 statistics

I wrote this story appearing in today's paper about the recent uptick in gold production in Alaska.

While I worked on that story last week, I was curious, too, about hardrock mineral exploration, so I asked some state officials to give me stats showing whether it's been up or down over the last few years. That data is below. As faithful Pebble Blog readers know, there is a lawsuit in state court right now claiming the state's current exploration permit process violates the state constitution. Will that lawsuit put a damper on next year's exploration? That's hard to say right now, because key rulings in the case are still pending. We'll at least know about how many companies applied to explore in 2010 by the end of the first quarter of the year.

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Diocese takes stance on water pollution

Here's a resolution that was approved by the Orthodox Diocese of Alaska at its annual Assembly in Anchorage this week.


Resolution of the Assembly of the Orthodox Diocese of Sitka, Anchorage and Alaska Concerning the Sanctity of the Earth and the Responsibility all Alaskan Native People serve as its Guardians and Protectors

Whereas, according to the traditions and teachings of Alaska Native peoples, the Earth and the whole creation have always been perceived and experienced as filled with the sacred presence of Life, and

Whereas, historically Alaska Native peoples have approached all living and life-sustaining elements with reverence and respect, and

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Lots of Pebble-related news

Here's a recap of recent events:

* A state judge recently declined to dismiss most of the counts in a lawsuit attempting to overturn the Bristol Bay land-use plan: Read more.

* Pebble opponents flocked to Capitol Hill this week to lobby for wild salmon and against the proposed mine: Read more at fixed link.

* The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce gave Pebble executive John Shively its 'Alaskan of the Year' award: Read more.

read more »

Pebble poll results

Nunamta Aulukestai, a Bristol Bay non-profit opposed to Pebble, today released a poll it commissioned about the proposed mine. I'm posting its announcement below. Previous polls or surveys relating to Pebble have been conducted by Bristol Bay Native Corp., the Alaska House Finance Committee, Northern Dynasty Minerals (a 2007 Dittman poll that was never published) and others.


Anchorage, Alaska – A new poll released today finds an overwhelming majority of Bristol Bay residents strongly prefer their subsistence lifestyle to the promise of jobs at the proposed Pebble Mine.

The poll, which is the most in-depth survey of local Alaska Natives’ opinion on the Pebble Mine, found that 79 percent of respondents believe the mine, located in the headwaters of two of the region’s largest salmon-spawning rivers, would damage Bristol Bay’s wild salmon fishery – a key resource that many residents depend on for income and food.

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Pebble Update

Last week, Sean Magee, a Northern Dynasty Minerals executive, gave a Pebble project overview to the Denver Gold Forum, an annual meeting of precious-metal investors.

You can listen to it here or read the Powerpoint here.

Nothing in the presentation is breaking news, but here are the main points that Magee shared:

* Eight alternatives are being looked at on how to develop Pebble.

read more »

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