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Sides gear up for fight over Pebble initiative

Posted: September 20, 2011 - 12:03am

ANCHORAGE — The fight over a ballot initiative aimed at stopping development of the Pebble Mine prospect in southwest Alaska is heating up.

The Anchorage Daily News reports wealthy interests on both sides are putting money into the effort.

At issue is an Oct. 4 ballot initiative aimed at Pebble. It seeks to change the law in the Lake and Peninsula Borough to forbid the granting of permits for any big mine that would have a significant adverse impact on salmon streams.

The “Save our Salmon” initiative is being bank-rolled by Bob Gillam, an Anchorage businessman who owns a large home near the Pebble prospect. According to campaign disclosures, all of the $375,000 in contributions the group received from February until Sept. 2 came from Gillam.

The other side calls itself “Defend Your Rights.”

Most of the group’s reported $115,885 in contributions came from the Pebble Limited Partnership, which represents mining companies Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals. That total excludes money spent by the group in its unsuccessful court effort to keep the initiative off the ballot.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission recently ruled that Pebble was not required to report those court expenses. The Gillam cash report included costs related to the court fight, according to initiative supporters.

The proposed Pebble copper and gold mine would be North America’s largest open pit mine.

The project straddles streams that feed rich runs of salmon and rainbow trout. Prospect supporters say mining and fishing can co-exist in the Bristol Bay area, and the project would create jobs. Opponents say the mine could destroy salmon runs.

The Bristol Bay Native Corp. has sent letters to its shareholders in the borough stating that the Pebble project “is too big, of the wrong type and in the wrong location. It poses unacceptable risks to salmon and other resources of the region.”

Greg Anelon, a former borough official who chairs the “Defend Your Rights” campaign, said the borough has a process in place to decide permits for development projects. He said the initiative would “take that right away.”

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