Mine opponents enlist 'Deadliest Catch' crabber

Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska have recruited the skipper of a high-profile crab boat for their campaign against the development.

Sig Hansen has a recurring role on the Discovery Channel's reality show the "Deadliest Catch."

He has taken a stand against the Pebble project, a copper and gold mineral prospect that opponents say threatens fisheries. Hansen and his crew will star in print and TV ads against Pebble.

The ads will be paid for by the Renewable Resources Coalition, an anti-Pebble nonprofit in Anchorage.

Conservation groups hope to eventually target a national audience with the "Deadliest Catch" ads, said Lindsay Bloom of Trout Unlimited, another nonprofit group that opposes Pebble.

Companies that hope to develop Pebble into a world-class mine also recently began running television ads. They are aimed at calming fears about the prospect, which could become the state's largest mine.

London-based Anglo American has spent millions on Pebble. The company has said repeatedly that it will not develop a mine that hurts fisheries or wildlife in Alaska.

Pebble holds an estimated hundreds of billions of dollars worth of copper and gold upstream from Bristol Bay, home to a major Alaska salmon fishery.

Hansen, who lives in Seattle, said he usually shies away from requests to get involved in anything political. As someone who relies on crab stocks and other fisheries, he said, he is not opposed to all resource development.

"I'm not your typical greenie," Hansen said.

He supports offshore oil drilling in the Bering Sea if it can be done safely, he said.

However, he has been persuaded that Pebble cannot be done safely. If a development has "the potential to destroy a resource as delicate as the salmon, you've got to draw the line somewhere," he said.

Mining companies pursuing Pebble view the ad campaign with dismay.

"The ad itself is a little unfortunate in that it continues to prey on the fears that this project pits fishing against mining," said Mike Heatwole, spokesman for the companies.

Pebble officials said in March that they plan to complete a preliminary study this year to determine whether a mine might be feasible. They said they hope to start seeking development permits in 2010, a process that could take several years.



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