Miners hear support for Pebble

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2007

Former House Speaker and mining advocate Gail Phillips called attacks on the Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay "so unfair that I think it is un-American and un-Alaskan."

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Speaking to the annual conference of the Alaska Miners Association on Friday in Juneau, Phillips warned of numerous threats against Northern Dynasty Mines Inc.'s Pebble Mine, including ballot initiatives that might bring new taxes, a ban on cyanide use and regulatory changes.

She said an effort aimed at bypassing the governmental permitting process to stop Pebble could hurt development all across Alaska if it succeeds.

"What happens to new projects if we cannot ensure investors that our permitting processes are safe, fair and applied equally to all projects?" asked Phillips, who is vice-chairwoman of the mining advocacy group Truth about Pebble.

State Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, attended the conference and said afterwards people in Bristol Bay disagreed with Phillip's speech.

"It's a message that's not consistent with what a great many people in the district believe," he said.

"People in our region are very concerned about keeping our water healthy so our salmon stocks are maintained," he said.

Among the threats Pebble and the mining industry are facing, Phillips said, are new mining taxes that could make mining unprofitable.

The new taxes are likely to come by initiative, she said. They will be attempts to play upon voters' willingness to raise taxes on others while keeping their own low, "So we don't ever have to pay our share for living in Alaska," she said.

Another danger, she said, lies in attacking the use of cyanide in mining, which would be easier to campaign for.

Mining opponents could convince voters to ban the important cyanide mining technique by saying, "Cyanide kills, do you want us to stop cyanide use Alaska," she said.

She also criticized legislative efforts that she called "takings" that would extend environmental protections throughout Bristol Bay. She said a bill sponsored by Edgmon is intended to stop Pebble.

Phillips also criticized anti-Pebble advertisements in which an actor says "we Alaskans" need to protect the environment.

"That guy is an actor from Spokane," she said. "He is not a 'we Alaskans.'"

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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