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.