Pebble CEO and opponent debate whether mine proposal is ‘the nose under the camel’s tent’

A base camp at the site of the proposed Pebble Mine. (Photo by Isabelle Ross/KDLG)

The CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership and a prominent Pebble opponent today debated a key point of contention about the proposed mine: its size.

The federal Army Corps of Engineers is currently reviewing Pebble’s most recent mine plan. The company argues this plan is smaller than earlier proposals and better designed to protect the Bristol Bay region’s salmon fishery.

During Alaska Public Media’s weekly call-in show, Talk of Alaska, former Alaska state Sen. Rick Halford raised a concern shared by many in the anti-Pebble camp — that the new mine proposal is only the beginning.

“You can’t expect stockholders to fund digging a hole halfway down and then refilling the hole and not develop the resource that they have under claim. It is not a reasonable expectation,” Halford said.

In its application, Pebble says it plans to mine 1.4 billion tons of material over 20 years, although it’s estimated that there is much more copper, gold and molybdenum that could potentially be mined in the deposit.

On the show, Pebble CEO Tom Collier said the company currently doesn’t have plans to expand. Collier said before the mine could get bigger, it would have to go through an additional permitting process.

“When the major complaint now about the proposal that Pebble has put forward is that it is ‘the nose under the camel’s tent’ and there may be more coming along, that’s the same thing as saying there really isn’t anything wrong with the current proposal,” Collier said.

The full exchange can be heard on the June 25, 2019 edition of Talk of Alaska.

Reached after the call-in show, Halford said he still opposes Pebble’s current proposal, arguing it remains a large project in same region as the most valuable salmon fishery of its kind in the world.

The Army Corps’ public comment period on Pebble’s proposal ends July 1.

Elizabeth Harball is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk, covering Alaska’s oil and gas industry and environmental policy. She is a contributor to the Energy Desk’s Midnight Oil podcast series. Before moving to Alaska in 2016, Harball worked at E&E News in Washington, D.C., where she covered federal and state climate change policy. Originally from Kalispell, Montana, Harball is a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Previous articleTraveling Music 7-21-19
Next articleFormer Alaska lawmaker disappointed with retroactive per diem payments