Mining for a Sale

For months now, Vancouver’s Northern Dynasty Minerals has made no secret of its intention to sell its 50 percent stake in the controversial, proposed Pebble Mine, at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, but to date no buyers have come forth. Business news reports in the past week indicate that Pebble, one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper deposits, could be a target for Rio Tinto, one of the mining entities buying out companies in which they have a stake during the economic downturn. Now Pebble is back in the news, with Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen saying again that the junior mining company is looking for a mega-mining company to move the project forward.

The Pebble Limited Partnership to date has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on exploration and engineering and has said it will seek permitting in 2012. In 2011 alone, the Pebble Partnership, 50 percent owned by Anglo American, a London-based mining company with world wide ventures, budgeted $91 million for the project.

Mining proponents say the huge copper and gold deposit can be developed in harmony with the multi-million dollar Bristol Bay salmon fisheries and that the mine will be a boost to the economy of southwest Alaska.

Opponents, including commercial, sport and subsistence salmon fishermen, and fisheries biologists, say the mine poses a potential threat to hundreds of salmon spawning streams in the Bristol Bay region. Both sides have bombarded television viewers with their arguments for and against the mine.

“It’s pure speculation on my part,” said Bob Waldrop, a long-time participant in the Alaska seafood industry, including the commercial salmon fisheries in Bristol Bay, “but it sounds like maybe they re getting increasingly anxious about their holdings.”

Waldrop noted that Northern Dynasty has been saying for some time that as a junior mining company they don’t do development. “Apparently they are having a hard time with their offer, so they keep making news out of it, “ he told The Fishermen’s News.

“Skies are dark with impending scrutiny of proposed development out there,” Waldrop said. “They may be worried about the information that will come out during permitting and trying to get out before that.”