Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pebble Mine

Hmm, to mine or not to mine. This is a huge argument that I'm sure will continue for a LONG time.

Pebble prospect ranks 2nd worldwide
UNPROVEN: A revised estimate of gold, copper deposits puts the value at more than $200 billion.
Published: February 21, 2007 Last Modified: February 21, 2007 at 02:20 AM

The company exploring the controversial Pebble copper and gold prospect announced Tuesday its Southwest Alaska project now ranks as the second-largest mineral deposit of its kind in the world.

And it's still growing.

The new estimate released Tuesday nearly doubles the copper and gold estimated to lie on state leases within Pebble's eastern area, the richest part of the prospect.

The entire Pebble project, about 19 miles north of Iliamna, is now estimated to contain 82 million ounces of gold and 67 billion pounds of copper.

At today's prices, that's worth more than $200 billion.

Pebble has been a magnet for controversy -- and high-profile advertising and lobbying campaigns -- because the giant mine prospect lies amid streams that feed part of the huge Bristol Bay salmon run and a sport fishing mecca.

Tuesday's announcement is resulting in both fear and rejoicing throughout Alaska.

The president of a Bristol Bay village Native corporation said the doubling of Pebble's eastern deposit -- which lies near several salmon streams -- only makes him more worried.

"With its growth, it just gets scarier and scarier," said Bobby Andrew, president of Aleknagik Natives Limited. But, Tuesday, the executive director of Alaska's Associated General Contractors group called Pebble "the Prudhoe Bay of Alaska mining."

The potential mine could be the state's "next great economic development opportunity," claimed the association's Dick Cattanach, who also co-chairs a group called Truth About Pebble, which is advocating on behalf of the possible mine.

The new estimates of Pebble's mineral wealth resulted from analysis of last year's drilling.
Northern Dynasty Mines Ltd., the Canadian company exploring Pebble, said Alaskans should be cautious about interpreting the new estimates because they haven't been proven yet.
That will take more drilling, and the company still needs to do an economic-feasibility study, Northern Dynasty executives said Tuesday.

The new estimates of the Pebble deposit simply push back the point at which that study is done, said Northern Dynasty spokesman Sean Magee.

He explained that the company, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, will not start looking at the big economic picture at Pebble for at least a couple years.

State officials also stressed Tuesday that Pebble's mineral resources have not yet been proven to be financially worthwhile to develop.

"It gets more real in my mind when there are real dollars assigned to the cost of production," said Tom Crafford, the state's large mines permit coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

Among unknowns for any Pebble developer is where the mine will get the massive amounts of electricity needed to power a huge mine, and how the mined ore would get to the coast for export.
Pebble is arousing significant opposition in Alaska and throughout the United States' sportfishing industry because of its location in the headwaters of several rivers that feed Bristol Bay salmon fisheries -- one of the world's largest single sources of wild salmon.

Both pro- and anti-Pebble groups claim large and growing support bases in Alaska.
In the last two weeks, both sides have staked their positions on a pair of new bills in the state Legislature that would create stricter environmental protection for Bristol Bay's headwaters.
Northern Dynasty executives have decried the new bills. The company also says it won't allow "net loss" of salmon and that it hasn't yet determined the best way to develop Pebble.

The potential mine could involve a small open pit just to the west of an underground mine or the company could decide to develop only an underground mine in Pebble's eastern zone, said Magee, the company spokesman.

According to company's calculations, the only copper and gold project in the world bigger than Pebble is the Grasberg mine in Indonesia. Grasberg has 109 million ounces of gold and 80 billion pounds of copper.

Pebble's mineral resource is still open to expansion to the south and the north, and those areas will be explored this year, Magee said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Northern Dynasty Minerals and the State of Alaska are doing what they want to do, they don't care about the people that live in the area and call it home. They will put in their mine and road whether we want it or not. I wonder what they would do if this was a project in their back yards, especially Gail Phillips!