Environmental espionage: Tapes of Pebble chiefs speaking out of school, or a nothing-burger? - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, September 28, 2021
HomeThe 907Environmental espionage: Tapes of Pebble chiefs speaking out of school, or a nothing-burger?

Environmental espionage: Tapes of Pebble chiefs speaking out of school, or a nothing-burger?

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A transcript. An actor reading it to a recording. A strategic release of anti-Pebble messaging gold. And ultimately, a nothing-burger.

An environmental group claims it has tapes of Pebble Partnership executives speaking out of school on the Pebble Mine, perhaps overstating their political influence, and taking credit for political outcomes.

It’s the environmental industry’s version of Project Veritas, which the Left hates because it uses disguised identities and hidden cameras to uncover liberal bias and corruption in the media and with groups like Planned Parenthood.

Only this time time, it’s not the Right that has used the covert technique, but the environmentalists coming after companies, projects, and jobs.

Likely there is more to come. Groups like this will drip out a first tranche of data, wait for the target to respond, and then drip out another damaging section.

The trick Zoom calls were with fake investors who wanted to know whether the Pebble mine proposed for Western Alaska could ever be bigger than proposed. Yes, the executives said. They expect it to be bigger and operate for longer than the initial 20 years.

The Pebble Partnership, owned by Northern Dynasty, awaits a key permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which explains the timing of the secret recording, coming out when it can do the most damage.

In the call, the Northern Dynasty chief executive said the mine could possibly continue on for decades.

“Once you have something like this in production why would you want to stop?” said Ronald W. Thiessen, chief executive of Northern Dynasty.

He said that once local villages started receiving tax revenues, they would quickly support the mine. “It’s $10,000 per man, woman and child. They want that to go away? No.”

Nothing in that is inconsistent with what the company has said in the past.

Pebble is the most controversial mine in the world, fought by every environmental group in America, and is a lightning rod political topic. The mine executives made claims that they could sway the political scene in Alaska, and that Gov. Mike Dunleavy was a supporter of the mine.

Dunleavy, in fact, is supportive of mining and has come out in favor of a fair permitting process for Pebble.

But both Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have said they oppose the mine in its current format.

The recordings were made in August and September by Environmental Investigation Agency, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. that specializes in covert operations to expose companies it seeks to destroy. In this series of videos and transcripts, provided to the New York Times and other news groups sympathetic to the group’s cause, most of what was revealed is in the category of a “meh” story. Even stock prices for Northern Dynasty didn’t respond today.

But in Alaska, everything about Pebble Mine is a political tinderbox and will likely be used in this election cycle by Democrats seeking to take out Republicans.

Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership said of the recordings “there are some pretty questionable ethics at play” by EIA. But the companies also said that they’ve always maintained that once a mine was permitted, other phases of development could be pursued.

But Northern Dynasty likely won’t be the developer of the mine. The value they are bringing is the permit. The company, if it follows what others have done, is in the business of going through the grueling process of getting a permit, and then may sell the project, with permit, to a company that will take the project forward. In fact, mines are traded routinely.

It’s quite possible that an Alaska Native Corporation could decide to buy the project from Northern Dynasty.

Read the Special Report on Pebble at Must Read Alaska.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • This was a new low for the opponents of Pebble, although they will no doubt try to out do themselves. Never forget that these shenanigans are played to generate donation money at the expense of the Alaskan economy. This has nothing to do with the environment.

  • I watched all the recordings. As a close follower of Pebble there were really no “gotchas” that the EIA wanted to see. They must have been disappointed. Pebble was proposed as a 20 year mine but it’s common knowledge (and common practice for mines) that they will one day either seek to continue or expand production. Yawn. If anything is negative here for Pebble leadership it is that it is a bit embarrassing for Sullivan and Murkowski, who have not been allies of the project but not enemies either.

    And so what if it made it clearer Dunleavy is a “secret” supporter… He should be, because–in addition to high paid year round jobs–this one mine will bring in $200 million a year directly into the State treasury, as much as the “modest” income tax Walker wanted to institute on all working Alaskans… From one mine, not to mention the potential of a future expanded mine. The economic benefits from this mine to the entire state is mind boggling and places little to no risk on the fishing industry (which is subsidized by the state and supports mostly seasonal, out of state and low paid jobs anyway).

  • I don’t think an Alaska Native Corporation could afford to buy Northern Dynasty, Suzanne. Apart from the cost of acquisition, which will be several billion, the capital expenditures to develop Pebble will cost about 5.5 billion. Besides an Alsska Native Corpotation would not have the technical expertise to operate Pebble. They may, however, paticipate with a consortium of major mining companies to develop Pebble.

  • I believe Murkowski and Sullivan both deserved to be called out. Neither miss an opportunity to knock Pebble publicly. The Governor’s approach of cautious enthusiasm is refreshing and authentic.

  • Thanks for the honest presentation in your writing Suzanne. It’s a breath of fresh air.

  • The PR/communications associated with this group is more amateur hour than any company I can recall. I do hope they are better at mining. Goodness gracious.

  • More propaganda by MRA. Who is behind you Suzanne?

    • I think you’ve been hacked John. Your title is all run together unlike how it used to be in the past. I smell a troll.

    • This is informed analysis and very balanced reporting. I cannot imagine why anyone but the author has to be “behind” it, whatever that means. It’s also cogent, concise and complete. No one ever writes those words about the Anchorage Daily News or the Juneau Empire.

    • Johnhslone or whomever you are: what factual part of MRAK’s piece do you dispute? Looks like a fairly balanced account me. The ADN repeated many of the same facts. Do you feel its piece is just “ more propaganda”?
      Try to discern the difference between opinion and fact Johnhslone. Opinion is just that: an opinion! Facts are facts.

    • SLONE, religious kooks and republicans. Oops. I repeated myself.

      • Racist hate filled commies and Democrats. Oops, I repeated myself.
        Hey- this is is easy!

  • Great reporting! I am in CA, the epicenter of regulations until I came across Pebble years ago. Hard to imagine so many out naysayers are out of towners – would love to hear more how locals feel other than the same groups against it and how informed they reaaly are about ots environmental impact or lack thereof. Looking forward to more articles.

  • As an avid hunter and fisherman I hope pebble goes down in flames….and takes all the corrupt politicians with them.

  • You’d think a couple of used car salesmen would be smarter than that. What would be delicious is if they have a recording of Collier calling Don Jr. an imbecile. What’s really hilarious is how fast Sullivan’s office replied and I can imagine a certain unhappiness in his tent towards PLP.

    And poor Medred will still wail on about the ADN’s poor reporting.without having published anything but subjective googlisious claptrap for years.

    • Hey, Monk. Suzanne wrote this piece not Medred. Why bring Craig into your rant? Do you work for ADN? For what it’s worth I’ve been reading Medred’s reporting since 1978 and what you term claptrap just might be the truth.

  • My main concern is to who or whom would ND/PP sell/trade their project to?
    Chance of it being China?
    Wonder if future sale/trade boundaries or restrictions could be (or are) a part of the permit process? Full disclosure of this intention should be in the contract/agreement/permit.
    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • There are no bombshells in these recordings. The mine proponents are basically saying if they get permitted and demonstrate responsible operations then they likely will try to expand or extend the mine. That does not constitute a current plan.

    Further, if they have stayed government support, that’s great! Alaska is a resource development and extraction based economy, like it or not. We need to develop good long term mining projects that can provide a steady tax base. Then the liberals will have something to spend !

    What amazes me is why the people of Alaska continue to tolerate the interference of politicians, agencies and activists in the Lower 48!

  • These Pebble executives got caught telling the truth.

  • Apparently it’s more than a nothing-burger with Collier resigning today.

  • I thought the damning part is how an industry executive said that in using money and influence he feels he owns politicians, can manipulate electoral politics and that Sullivan and Murkowski were not being honest with the voters.

  • The hysteria around this mine is just mind boggling. The very fact that responsible mining in Alaska is so contested is will guarantee that Alaska population never grows, except in the realm of the welfare recipients. No new jobs, no continued development of infrastructure, no future for the state.

    • Yes and May God please Help us in the struggle against the liars ( i.e. democrats who do not even pretend to want truth just spit out lies as if they are mind controlled)

  • Wake up Alaskans: this mine is dead, and Sullivan with it. This blog would be more refreshing if not for the blatant bias towards “Republican” propaganda. There’s a lot of potential here, if only the sheep will realize both the Republican and Democratic party are inherently and equally corrupt.

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