Pebbled: The environmentalist who cries ‘Wolf!’ is louder than the scientific process



(Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series by Mark Hamilton about the history of the Pebble Project in Alaska.)

As Alaskans, perhaps more than any other state citizenry, we face a difficult future if we do not proceed in the responsible extraction of our natural resources.

Virtually every major development will be “controversial.”  There is nothing wrong with that word; it simply means there are opinions on both sides (or all sides) of the issue at hand. Still, it has become a reason to avoid involvement or even a deeper look. That is not a good plan.

Here’s why:  Every major development will be met by that narrative of fear I referred to in the previous column.  

“The project (fill in the blank) will destroy this, kill that, poison something… and so forth.”

That narrative of doom will be ended with: “Send your donation to X, so we can stop the destruction.”  This will never go away because these groups are making a fortune with this technique.

In Alaska, we have seen these narratives since 1968. You may look at those predictions now and see them as absurd; but think how they sounded in the moment.  These divinations prey on our fears. We all care about the animals, the Earth, the culture.  Here are people of some authority telling us the project will destroy things we care about.   

Today that message would appear on social media many times a day, and be on op-ed pages in newspapers multiple times a week. In the meantime, the would-be developer would be assessing the requirements that must be accounted for to receive the permit to develop the project.

There are criteria for approving resource projects. Lots of requirements. The rules tell you how to prepare. For mines, there is a book printed by the Environmental Protection Agency, called Hard Rock Mining in the Northwest and Alaska.  The book outlines the requirements for pursuing approval for a mining project, critical to the prospect of having any mining projects in our state since it simply costs too much money and time to enter the project without a clear understanding of the requirements. It is essential to the industry that the requirements are complete and understood, in order to balance the enormous time and financial commitment required to pursue the process.  As well, this listing of needed requirements is the public’s first assurance that no harmful project will be allowed.  Clear rules and clear requirements that must be met ensure a solid process.

Knowing the criteria allows outlining the work to be done prior to presenting the project to the appropriate federal agency. The preparation will take years and several tens of millions of dollars of scientific and technical work. 

At this multi-year stage, we are presented a very uneven dialogue. The alarmists are hard at work with their narrative of fear (still collecting donations), while the developer can only offer, “We are committed to following the rules and regulations.”  That doesn’t strike an emotional chord compared to “The mine will destroy, poison, and ruin.”

Many are familiar with the often-told children’s tale about the shepherd boy, who being bored, decided to alert the townspeople to visit him by crying “wolf!”  The town reacted in force and finding no threat cautioned the boy against such a prank. A short time later, bored again, he once again shouted “wolf!”  Again, the town reacted, and this time angrier at the false alarm.  As you may recall (or predict if you have not heard the story), one day a wolf did appear.  The boy called “wolf!” over and over as the beast slaughtered the precious flock. No one came.

I can’t endorse the ultimate inaction of the villagers. The flock was critical. They should have reacted again. If it was another false alarm, they should have replaced and punished the shepherd boy.

There have been several calls of “wolf!” in my lifetime. In the 1970s we were warned of an impending ice age. This got lots of attention in major newspapers and either Time or Newsweek magazines. Without the marvelous social media we have today, the doomsday prediction spread slowly enough for a large majority of scientists to offer a counter argument that demonstrated that the earth had actually warmed.  The ice age group was not a bunch of kooks.  They proudly presented their data and conclusions to include the computer program they used.  

Careful scrutiny by other scientists discovered the fault in the computer program that projected accurate data incorrectly.  No one created their own data; no one was called an ice age denier. Competent scientists used their skills to disprove the original conclusion. It was simply a case of misunderstanding of a pretty recent tool—the computer and its program. It was settled with fact.

A similar event happened a bit later that involved the warning that the earth would relatively quickly succumb to overpopulation.  This erroneous conclusion involved the extrapolation of measured population growth with the assumption that nothing would alter the birth rate.

Both of these predictions were ultimately dismissed, and both involved faulty techniques.  Neither presented false data, and so were easy to unravel and discover the operational error that produced faulty results.

How very different today, when doomsday predictions, or scare tactics move so quickly, presenting virtually no data, or suspect data at best.  They ride the cyber echo to viral status and become nearly impossible to erase or refute while they “pebble” you.

The “Pebbled” series at Must Read Alaska is authored by Mark Hamilton. After 31 years of service to this nation, Hamilton retired as a Major General with the U. S. Army in July of 1998. He served for 12 years as President of University of Alaska, and is now President Emeritus. He worked for the Pebble Partnership for three years before retiring. The series continues next week. 

Pebbled 1: Virtue signaling won out over science in project of the century

Pebbled 2: Environmental industry has fear-mongering down to an art

Pebbled 3: The secret history of ANWR and the hand that shaped it

Pebbled 4: When government dictates an advance prohibition

Pebbled 5: EPA ‘just didn’t have time’ to actually go to Bristol Bay

Pebbled 6: The narrative of fear


  1. Mark, You are a wasted voice in the environment. Peeble has no future in Alaska, and you really don’t possess enough about Alaska. You really fall in with the Firecracker Boys. You just don’t understand AlaskA.. Time to drift off into the glooming. We’ve fought our battle long ago and far away.

  2. Mark,

    I appreciate your series on this important issue.

    As you may recall, I am an Alaska Native woman, who is the daughter of a gold mining, trapping and Iditarod dog mushing family.

    In fact, the one time I met you – you asked me how I defined ethics. I told you it was simple for me. If I can lay my head on my pillow at night and sleep restfully, and in the morning look at myself in the mirror (without remorse) then I was ok.

    Do you remember your response? That is neither here or there.

    The fact is these discussions have to happen by Natives among Natives. We are the largest private land holders in the United States, if not the largest Indegenous Land Holders on Earth!

    I appreciate your support and two cents.

    But the fact is in this time in history, as I need to qualify myself in the western world through western education and sociatal gamesmanship to influence change, so do you.

    That being said, I hope you remember your response to me on ethics.

    Sleep well.

  3. When the former UA President all but killed off the mining engineering department and replaced it with a Native Culture program, the miners, mining students, and industry leaders cried, “wolf.” The President never came to their rescue. Instead, he threw pebbles at them. And now he wants us to believe that he’s some kind of hero to the mining industry? Who’s pebbling who?

  4. Thank you for your excellent series on Pebble, very insightful.
    Micheal Crichton “State of Fear”, is a must read.
    Be it disease, weather, race, foreign governments, voter rights, aliens, and other subjects, that the nebulous “they” are concocting.
    Fear mongers have been around since the Dawn of civilization.
    So folks do not be so quick to gobble up the BS that is in the current propaganda machine for the moment.

  5. While I attended only a few Pebble related meetings, and been to their Anchorage office only a few times, I still couldn’t help but notice an oddity. I would have business with Pebble management but Hamilton was nowhere to be seen. I would have business with Hamilton, but Pebble management was nowhere to be seen.
    That remained true when I drove to Fairbanks for a Pebble related meeting, and in Anchorage also. Looked to me like Hamilton and Pebble management were polar opposites.

  6. Looks like several readers of MRAK are onto Mr. Hamilton and his sophist-icated arguments. Perhaps there is hope.

  7. AK / April 17, 2021

    JOSEPHDJ, while working in a village there was a meeting about Donlin Gold. I will never forget her, in her Armani suit coming off the Lear Jet, standing up to oppose the project because it would ruin the ‘quaint’ lifestyle in the village.

  8. As an investor, it blows my mind how self righteous and sanctimonious people are about resource development. I didn’t invest in the Congolese copper mine or the African oil and gas driller because I naively thought it was better to invest in America. American jobs, standards and the rule of low…those other projects are now flying (do I even mention Nordstream 2) while Pebble languishes..and for what?? The DEIS…PFEIS AND FEIS are clean so unequivocally no harm to the fish..frankly, I wish Trump would have rammed it through because there will be no harm to the fish and I for one am sick of the far left using fear and emotion in everything from mine permitting to the pandemic response to hold us all back from a better futire for ourselvss and our children.

  9. Paul Geivette / April 21, 2021

    Thank you, Josephdj. I studied the actual Hamilton record and did the research on him, with the help of a few retired UAF faculty. The other three just piled-on. It may be personal, I don’t know.

    Apparently P Geivette, who seems to be somewhat an authority on Hamilton’s U of A career, didn’t recognize any of the other three Hamilton dissidents. So who are they really? EnviroNazis attacking the messenger? So far none of them, neither now nor in any of the previous articles have countered anything Hamilton has said. So it appears that Hamilton’s words are true and correct, as attested by his personal dissidents failure to counter him on ANY points.

  10. Hey, I believe in mining and resource development. I just do not believe in an opportunist trying to “Steven Segal” his way into heroship.

    Our ancestors knew that, “the land provides”.

    We are a hard working people. We are the innovators, survivors, cultural-bearers, private-landholders – and now a block of voters that swing the future of our collective destiny.

    I support Pebble Mine.

    I absolutely do not support the tactics of outside influencers appropriating our culture to validate their own lost existence whether that be for or against what I support.

    Paternalism is dead.

    Find a new gig.

    We got this.

    Trudy Sobocienski

  11. I find some of these comments about Mark Hamilton very interesting. I didn’t think he was a very good representative for the mining industry, at least after reading about the disconnect from his own ranks. He certainly isn’t persuasive in the environmental or fishing community. If what Mr. Paul Geivette stated is true, and I haven’t read any retorts from Mark Hamilton to refute his facts, then Hamilton us essentially wasting his time here. Unless there is an ulterior motive to jump on another controversial mining development. Some people just know how to blow smoke and smile into the mirror.

  12. Trudy S.:
    Yes, you do have this one. When the messenger speaks with a forked tongue, it’s usually the naive who get forked. Hamilton fed the UA system what was politically expedient during his tenure. Like Santa Claus coming to town after a shopping spree using your money from Juneau, Hamilton has no clue how to produce wealth from the private sector or harmonize competing entities. It’s not his skill set. Kissing a$$ does not require a college degree. It can get you a star or two as long as you don’t mind the sometimes unbathed bottom. When it’s blatantly performed, as here, there are no ethical requirements. Standards shift accordingly. Thanks, Trudy. Keep posting.

  13. Good series. This is a persuasion play that has absolutely nothing to do with science. This means the pro-mining people need to get into the persuasion business.

    One way would be to point out that the Green Nude Eel the left is so enamored with is entirely based on renewables which are in turn based entirely on rare earths. The CCP is busily trying to monopolize rare earths, controlling upwards of 90% of them worldwide.

    Pebble ends up being a rare earths mine. So the question to the anti’s is who do you want supplying those metals? The same CCP that is busily flooding the US with fentanyl or a mine in the US? Cheers –

  14. I see the anti Hamilton gang is gaining traction. Some regular contributors are getting on their bandwagon.
    That’s how Marxist, or any other propaganda works … capture a few of the more susceptible, who usually pull some family and friends down with them.
    I’m amazed at how easy it it is to do … what with all the books, speakers, and multiple examples giving us warning, throughout history, people still fall for it. Makes me believe that there really is a Satan, and that lots of people are his “children”.
    That has to be the case because there’s no logic or common sense to anyone falling for any of the great or lessor delusions in history.
    It took me over fifty some years to escape the religious cult I had been indoctrinated into when I was a teen. It sounded so good. I thought it was the true church. It took a terrible event to open my eyes.
    The one good thing that came from that experience is that I can recognize a lie when I see it … and the anti Hamilton gang appears to be flat, outright lying … and they sound like they have no history with the U of A. Just innuendos, with no particulars, no details, no factual evidence. Just no-Hamiltoner’s, as a back-handed way to be no-Pebbler’s, since they apparently can’t counter anything Hamilton has said.

  15. I remember the scare tactic that “all the caribou will die” if the pipeline was built. What a bunch of b.s. People knew it was bs then and now have hindsight to prove it was bs.

  16. Lot’s of insults and ad hominem attacks from the anti-mining crowd, not a lot of substantive counterpoints, not that that’s surprising.
    As Agimarc said, this is about persuasion. If the general public can be persuaded that this mine is in their interest then it will come to be, if not and those who are currently winning the day and represent other interests then it will forever be a source of controversy.
    This prospect is much more than a copper and gold mine, much much more.

  17. Thanks for speaking out the truth Mark. There has been too many lies by the oppositions against this project. The pros definitely outweighs the cons with Pebble by a long shot. It is better to develop mines responsibly in Alaska then other parts of the world where environmental standards are lacking.

    Keep speaking out the truth and I support you.

  18. I googled U of A mining div Fairbanks, and found this … “The College of Engineering and Mines’ eight undergraduate degrees are accredited by ABET” … which confuses me because several on this thread are claiming that the mining division had been trashed by Hamilton.
    I also noticed that most of the professors have Eastern India and Chinese sounding names. Could it be that the anti Hamilton gang is upset because it’s a racial thing to them? They don’t like “foreigners” running “their” supposed to be lily-white school? They’re certainly against (per their own words) anything Native at U of A. Are they simply ordinary racists?
    I have yet to figure out where they’re coming from. They’re angry at Hamilton, but why, really? Or is my first assumption correct, that they’re actually anti mineral development in Alaska, and Hamilton’s articles are somehow running against their agenda?
    If they’re anti mineral development, then why? What do they individually lose or gain? Could they be shills for the CCP, who makes greater profits if America’s mining is suppressed? Or does it simply boil down to them pining away for the good old “Jim Crow” days?
    I don’t know, but their hatred for Hamilton raises so many questions, especially as they have been so nebulous about it. Of course, in this day and age, anyone would be as nebulous about voicing hatred towards any race. If they’re actually associated with, or retired from, U of A mining division, for them to directly confess hatred towards their “Foreign and Native” bosses would be a hate crime.
    So much safer to just lash out at Hamilton for letting Foreigners and Natives gain positions of authority over them.

  19. Thank you for continuing to tease apart these complex motivations and dynamics. I wish more people understood being a stakeholder isn’t about taking a side in some ideological death match, or solving problems by gathering signatures to marginalize competing interests, it’s simple having an interest at stake. Lots of people feel like they have a stake in what happens on lands owned and controlled by the State and its citizens, but any actual threat to that interest is negligible, and almost laughable compared to the interests at stake for local people. When one dominant outside group or ethos can close an area to disfavored industries, before local communities can explore potential projects with developers under their expert scrutiny and on their terms, that’s what happens in territories, not states. Thanks for the well-crafted reminders.

  20. Hey, I am all over the place with things that piss me off, but these beliefs I hold true:

    1. There is a place in the community for everyone – taken from Charlie Curie, former SAMSHA Administrator
    2. I am not being mean if I do not agree with you
    3. All of our collective ancestors throughout this globe sacrificed in one way or another for us to have this FREEDOM to speak our minds.
    4. I encourage people to speak from their own personal experience on matters of where they come from and/or have first-hand life experience to back up their public agenda.
    5. I did not, have not, will not EVER hand over my voice and rightful place in the local, statewide, national, or international community to speak on my behalf.

    That is all I have to say about that (as Forest Gump said it best).

    Cheers people.

  21. I don’t think they are anti-Hamilton per se, Josephdj. They are calling him out for his sophistry and contradictory views on mining. And since Hamilton never commented back to defend himself, or at least explain his past, the allegations against him must be true.

  22. Elaine: Their general claim is that Hamilton destroyed the mining division, but no specifics so that someone could understand exactly how. Shutting it down doesn’t appear to have happened. I can walk into their office anytime.
    I dealt with Augenbaugh, Skudrik, and Metz (excuse my spelling) at the U of A Fairbanks, Joy Zuke and Kevin Galligher, of the BLM when I was mining on Bonanza Creek, mile 114 on the Steese … so I have some relative history with mining officialdom.
    “Apparently P Geivette, who seems to be somewhat an authority on Hamilton’s U of A career, didn’t recognize any of the other three Hamilton dissidents.”
    Lacking anything to hang my hat on, other than hearing several dripping faucets, I can only surmise that it’s a racial thing because the only clues I have are the foreign name professors in authority, and the pointed complaints against the Native managed additions to U of A.
    “And since Hamilton never commented back to defend himself, or at least explain his past, the allegations against him must be…” too insignificant to warrant reply.
    I enjoy reading Hamilton’s take on the history of Pebble. I have enough personal knowledge to judge his version as reasonable from his viewpoint, and it fills out several gaps in my knowledge. I resent off topic pontificating. It’s just more of “Orange man bad” style bs.

  23. What happened to the stand-alone School of Mines? Gone. It got merged into the Engineering School and watered down as a technical school……..under Hamilton. What happened to the mines building? Hamilton sold out and turned it into a cultural studies building. Hamilton is no friend of the miners. He’s a BS artist with no ethics. Just as Trudy stated, above. And I think he’s a bit of a coward for not commenting and defending his position on these inquiries. Maybe he has such a high opinion of himself, he can’t stand being challenged?

  24. P Geivette: Thank you. Now I have a little better understanding what the dissent is about. Now, what’s that got to do with the Pebble mine? Whatever Hamilton’s failures were, with the mining department sounds like “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
    “Merged into the Engineering school” sounds so much like I said … the foreign and Native bosses are hated. Doesn’t matter if that’s actually the case. It certainly sounds like the case.
    How long ago was it? Hamilton’s still being dogged about it? That just appears so pathetic. Y’all goinna give yourselves heart problems. “Let it go, let it go.”

  25. Josephdj:
    I think Geivette’s point is that Mark Hamilton should “let it go” with the Pebble Mine. Hamilton isn’t going to rehabilitate the discussion. How could he? He’s not even onboard with the UA School of Mines that he trashed years ago.

  26. Meenahan: Stop. I’m getting all choked up and teary eyed. Besides, U of A is a white elephant. Graduates find work in the S-48 because Alaska’s better paying job prospects are limited mostly to the oilfield and state jobs.
    Where can a geology or mining school graduate find a job in Alaska? They used to be able to go to work for the formerly rapidly expanding, top heavy, U of A mining division, but no more. That horse got run to death.
    I remember those days. Seemed like there were geology and mining engineers under every rock in Alaska. Riding around every summer on horseback, with a pack of starry eyed students, chipping so many rock samples that Eagle Summit lost three feet off the top.
    Is that what Hamilton “trashed”? He merged it into the Engineering school to get rid of all the “stand alone dead-weight”? Is that the WAH that I hear?

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