Rio Tinto Considers Pulling Out Of Pebble Mine

Another investor in the proposed Pebble Mine says it may back out.

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Rio Tinto announced today that it will perform a strategic review of its investment in the controversial gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay region and that the review will consider divestment.

Rio Tinto holds about 19 percent of Northern Dynasty, which became the sole owner of the project after mining conglomerate Anglo American pulled out in September.

Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiesson told investors in a conference call this morning the announcement came as a complete surprise and that he would be seeking new investors in early 2014.

Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively declined to comment for this story.

Two of Rio Tinto’s large investors, the chief financial officers of New York City and the state of California, have been pressing Rio Tinto to reconsider its Pebble investment. They cited, among other reasons, the reputation risk to any company associated with the mine.

Pebble opponents say the project could destroy the Bristol Bay salmon fisheries and devastate the communities in the region.

Rio Tinto says it will consider Pebble’s fit with its investment strategy and its strategy for copper projects elsewhere.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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