Twenty state lawmakers and an Alaska Native corporation believe Gov. Mike Dunleavy misrepresented opposition to a proposed copper and gold mine in Bristol Bay, also home to one of the largest salmon fisheries.

The lawmakers wrote Wheaton Precious Metals CEO Randy Smallwood taking issue with Dunleavy’s letter that assured the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company that the state “will stand by those who invest in Alaska and will actively help defend them from frivolous and scurrilous attacks.”

Dunleavy referenced the national environmental group Natural Resource Defense Council, but lawmakers and Bristol Bay Native Corp. leaders want Smallwood to know the opposition is closer to home.

In a letter to Smallwood, members from the House and Senate wrote:

“Opposition to this project is both local and statewide, and is not frivolous, slanderous or interference. As individual Alaskans, our opposition to this project arises from the potentially severe social, economic, and cultural risks that the Pebble Mine represents. [...] Alaskans will vigorously defend their existing cultural and economic interests, and assuming that permitting will be pro forma carries substantial risk. As Alaskans, we refuse to jeopardize an existing, sustainable resource for the sake of an economically dubious project.”

Among those signing the letter were Senate Majority Leader Lyman Hoffman, a Bethel Democrat who is a member of the Republican-led majority caucus; Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham.

Hoffman and Edgmon represent Bristol Bay residents.

Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow said the governor wanted to assure Smallwood that he believed Pebble should be afforded a chance, as the letter states, “without interference and threats from project opponents.”

“While some in the Legislature may disagree, Governor Dunleavy and a large number of Alaskans believe projects should be allowed to follow a fair and transparent permitting process; one that is rigorous, merit-based and prescribed by law," Shuckerow said.

On Aug. 29, Bristol Bay Native Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Jason Metrokin also reached out to Smallwood.

He wrote:

“Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy wrote to you in July and impliedly characterized the opposition to the Pebble project as coming solely from national environmental groups. That is inaccurate. There is strong opposition to the project within Bristol Bay and across Alaska.”

He later added:

“Pebble threatens all of these economies and cultures and that is why the coalition opposing the project is so broad and deep. There are not many issues that bring Alaska Native, commercial fishing, sport fishing and wildlife tourism interests together. But as I noted above, Pebble is far from your typical resource development.”

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