Anglo American withdraws from Pebble project
One of the partners in a massive proposed gold and copper mine in southwest Alaska is pulling out.
London-based Anglo American PLC announced that a subsidiary is withdrawing from the Pebble Mine project. Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani says in a statement the company's focus has been on prioritizing money for projects with the highest value and lowest risks within its portfolio. Its focus also has been on reducing the amount of money needed in the preapproval phase.
Anglo American's decision leaves Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., based in Canada, as the sole owner.
Mike Heatwole is spokesman for the Pebble Limited Partnership, which was created to design, permit and run the mine.
He says the project remains important for Alaska, and officials will share additional information about the way forward for the project in the coming days and weeks.
Heatwole said there is no immediate impact on operations at the mine site.
“There will not a lot of change right now. At the project there are drill rigs still working. However, we will obviously be taking a serious look at what our next steps will be,” he said in an interview with Alaska Journal of Commerce reporter Tim Bradner.
The project budget for 2013 agreed on by the partners is $80 million, but whether all of that will now be spent, “is now a matter of some discussion,” Heatwole said.
The drilling program was planned to continue until the second week of October and that will continue, he said. There are about 54 people working at the project site and another 20 in Anchorage, he said.
Pebble has said the prospect is one of the largest of its kind in the world, with the potential of producing 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum and 107.4 million ounces of gold. But it's located near the headwaters of a major salmon fishery. Given the significance of the project, Magee said it will almost certainly be developed by a consortium of major partners in the future. He declined to speculate on what future partnerships might exist, noting in part that this has been a difficult time in the markets for the mining sector.
The Pebble project has been the subject of a fierce public relations battle for years. Supporters of the project contend it would bring much-needed jobs to economically depressed rural Alaska, but opponents fear it could adversely affect a way of life in the region.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is studying the impact of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region after concerns were raised about the project. A final report, expected this year, could affect permitting for the mine.
Tim Bristol, director of Trout Unlimited's Alaska program, said in a statement that he couldn't think of a development project in the state's history that has faced such "wide and deep opposition" from Alaska's citizens. Bristol, a critic of the mine project, said Anglo American's decision is no surprise, given the number of Alaskans who support efforts to protect the Bristol Bay region.