New Pebble Mine proposal sweetens the pot for locals
As Alaskans receive their Permanent Fund dividend checks Thursday, the Pebble Limited Partnership is offering some residents a little more.
At a Resource Development Council breakfast meeting Thursday morning, the company rolled out plans for a new, smaller Pebble Mine project -- based on recommendations from an advisory committee convened in August.
The company's revised proposal for the Pebble Mine project contains prospective revenue-sharing programs, including:
- Annual checks to Bristol Bay residents of about $500
- Profit-sharing with village corporations, which the company estimates at half a million dollars annually
- The creation of a new power facility using Pebble Mine resources to lower energy costs in the region
- An income stabilization program for Bristol Bay Fishermen
- A buy-back program to put more fish permits into local hands
"We don’t buy the dichotomy that you have to choose between the fishery and the mine; we think they can both co-exist," Tom Collier, CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership, told RDC members.
Collier also noted that because the proposed project doesn't sit on Native corporation land, there's no existing vehicle for revenue sharing locally.
"We're going to set-up a corporate entity, we're going to put 5 percent of the project into it," Collier said. "We're projecting that about half the shares will be held by local residents, half will be shared by the five Native village corps that are in the area close to this mining project."
Pebble's newly proposed project is about half the size of its original plans, according to Mike Heatwole, the partnership's vice president of public affairs.
But Bristol Bay opponents call it the same project, with new packaging.
“The claims that they’re making with this “new plan,” it’s not new. It’s not smaller than the Bristol Bay watershed assessment scenarios. There’s nothing different here,” said Alannah Hurley, Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay.
“Pebble can try to be the best used car salesman in Alaska, they can try and say whatever they want, they can talk about revenue-sharing, at the end of the day, we know the truth and we know that this project, if developed will devastate our fisheries and everything it sustains. And that’s a risk we’re not willing to take -- not for $500, not for a million dollars, we do not have a price tag. Pebble cannot buy support in Bristol Bay,” Hurley said.
Nelli Williams of Trout Unlimited echoed the sentiment Thursday. “A small mine has to eventually become a big mine for it to pan out financially. We also know from a historical perspective, this is what happens, they propose a mine that’s small and you know friendly, but then it gets bigger and bigger and bigger,” Williams said. “As far as I can tell, this morning was trying to package the Pebble that we all have major concerns about into a nice, shiny, new package.”
Collier said new calculations show the revised project will bring in between $50 million to $60 million in state revenue annually.
"We’re going to let a lot of contracts: billions (of dollars) over time, hundreds of millions every year, and we want most of those to stay in the region for these village corps and others to be able to receive them," Collier said. "But that means they’ve got to develop some competencies that they don’t currently have or find some [joint venture] partners that they don’t have."
He also stressed the number of contracts that could be retained locally, and says Pebble Limited Partnership has hired Arctic Slope Regional Corporation subsidiary ASRC Energy Services to mentor village corporations on opportunities available.
"We wanted to retain a regional corp to come in to help us identify all the contracting opportunities, and then to mentor these village corps so they’d be up to speed to receive contracts then in three or four years when we’d be letting."
Collier said the company will pay ASRC for its mentoring, and the village corporations for their time to engage in the mentoring process.
"We requested [the Bristol Bay Native Corporation] to consider this opportunity, and they were uninterested in doing so," Collier said. "So, we talked to another handful of regional corps."
Collier says the partnership will begin the permitting process for the revised project in December. The company intends to bring in a new partner on the project before the end of the year.
"We’re pretty confident that we’re going to get through this permitting process, and come out with a permit," Collier said.
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