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Anchorage businessman backs anti-Pebble initiative; issue goes before voters next week

Posted: September 29, 2011 - 12:08am

JUNEAU — An Anchorage businessman is largely bankrolling an initiative aimed at stopping the Pebble Mine.

Records filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show Robert Gillam as the sole contributor to Alaskans for Bristol Bay-Vote Yes on the Save Our Salmon Initiative.

Gillam contributed $415,000 from Feb. 2 to Sept. 24, according to the documents. But an attorney for the ballot group said at least two others, Anders Gustafson and Art Hackney, have made contributions of less than $100 that are not subject to reporting requirements.

Pebble Limited Partnership, which is seeking to advance the mine project, has been the largest contributor to the group aimed at defeating the measure. Pebble Partnership has given $200,000 — the vast majority of financial contributions — plus additional non-monetary contributions, like staff support, to Defend Your Rights, Vote No on the Save Our Salmon Initiative.

The initiative, on the Lake and Peninsula Borough ballot, would bar development of any large-scale resource extraction activity, including mining, that would destroy or harm salmon habitat. It’s aimed squarely at Pebble, a gold-and-copper prospect near the headwaters of Bristol Bay and a premier commercial sockeye salmon fishery.

Municipal borough elections are conducted by mail; ballots need to be postmarked by Oct. 4. The results of the election are expected Oct. 17.

Gillam said he’s a lifelong Alaskan who has had a home in the borough for years and is willing to defend clean water, the salmon and residents who don’t have the resources themselves to fight Pebble.

He said he believes the vote will be “strongly in favor” of the Save Our Salmon initiative.

But the vote may not be the last word. Pebble has raised legal issues surrounding the measure and a judge likely will be asked to look at those if the initiative passes.

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