Pebble Mine has always lacked for popular support. And, it has never really mattered who you asked. Whether you queried commercial fishermen, anglers, Alaskan residents or virtually anyone across the globe that wasn't directly invested in the mining industry, the answer was largely the same: Pebble Mine, the plan to build the world's largest open pit mine at the headwaters of the single most productive salmon fishery on the planet, is a preposterously stupid idea. Over the last few years, the already strong popular opposition to Pebble and the evidence against its viability has grown stronger and stronger, but the project's sole remaining investor -- Canadian mining firm Northern Dynasty Minerals (NYSE:NAK) -- refuses to let plans to develop the $500 billion Pebble deposit die.
The almost mythologically draconian figurehead of the Pebble Partnership (which, since last year's brisk departure of former partner Anglo American is no longer a partnership at all), chairman John Shively, recently expressed confidence that if the partnership is allowed to submit a permit application and have it reviewed, the state and its legislature is almost certain to approve the project. Shively explained, "The state has royalty, the state has taxes, the state’s going to get the economic benefit.”
Shively's comments and the insistence of Northern Dynasty to stay the course continue to ignore public opinion and the mounting facts that undermine the project's viability.
The recent Mount Polley disaster in British Columbia, which has left a tattered and toxic landscape in its wake, has served as an eerily strong corollary -- an "I told you so" -- for opponents of Pebble that have spent years explaining the significant danger that mines such as Pebble and Polley pose to the fisheries and environments that surround them.
Recent reports have also served as continuing reinforcement of the importance of the Alaskan salmon fishing industry. A recent report by the Alaska Department of Labor revealed that salmon fishing jobs continue to increase in the state. Employment in the salmon industry grew 2.5 percent last year, thanks mostly to increasingly large harvests and healthy fisheries, and have returned to near record-levels of almost a decade ago.
And analysis from the National Fisheries Institute and NOAA Fisheries -- which showed that per-capita consumption of salmon in the United State surged a whopping 34 percent last year, catapulting salmon ahead the vastly less sustainable tuna into the #2 spot amongst all seafood -- suggests that Alaska's trend of increasing job growth in the salmon fishing industry may be likely to continue for years to come.
Alaskans also recently reaffirmed their disdain for Pebble Mine, when they passed the "Bristol Bay Forever" ballot initiative by a decisive 65-35 margin. The initiative requires special legislative approval for any large-scale metals mine proposed in the Bristol Bay region.
Despite these ever-continuing setbacks, the Pebble Partnership's Shively remains resilient, stating "We're not dead. [Pebble] is a great prospect. It’s a great state asset. And someday it’s going to be developed.”