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ANCHORAGE - The chief executive of Anglo American PLC, the world's second-largest mining company, has crisscrossed Alaska during the past two days, meeting key politicians and business leaders in her pitch for transforming lands in western Alaska into one of world's largest mines.
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In a speech on Tuesday, Cynthia Carroll said little about projected profit or what minerals the company hopes to extract and instead addressed the most prickly subject in the debate over the Pebble Mine: the wild salmon fisheries of Bristol Bay.
The mine lies near the headwaters of the world's largest sockeye salmon streams and Carroll pledged that the company would drop out of the deal if studies find the resource cannot be protected.
"We do not want to and will not be associated with a mine that damages Alaska's fisheries and wildlife," Carroll told the Resource Development Council, a pro-business organization, at a breakfast meeting in Anchorage. "If a mine cannot be planned in a way that provides proper protections, it will not be built."
In August, Anglo American agreed to a 50-50 joint venture with the Canadian firm Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. to develop the mine, which the companies say holds world-class deposits of gold and copper.
The London-based company, the largest owner of diamond company De Beers, has pledged to provide $1.4 billion in financing for the project. In 2006, it reported a net profit of $6.2 billion and $38.6 billion in revenue.
Northern Dynasty and Anglo American estimate one of the Pebble deposits has 42.6 billion pounds of copper, 39.6 million ounces of gold, and 2.7 billion pounds of molybdenum, which is used to strengthen metal.
Opponents of the mine include sport and commercial fishermen, as well as the region's mostly Alaska Native residents who depend on salmon for a large part of their diet. They worry that pollution from the open-pit mine could cause irreparable harm to the fishery and the watershed.
Danny Consenstein, chief operating officer of the Renewable Resources Coalition, said the involvement of a large multinational corporation has galvanized its membership of 1,000.
"It makes our coalition members even more concerned, like what could have been seen as a pipe dream is a lot more real and it's making them even more vigilant," Consenstein said.
Anglo American mines platinum, diamonds, coal and other metals in at least 35 countries, from South Africa to Brazil to Canada. In North America, the conglomerate owns two Canadian diamond mines and the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine in Colorado.
On Monday, Carroll met with Gov. Sarah Palin and a few key Republican lawmakers in the capital city of Juneau. She also flew to the Bristol Bay community of Iliamna and met with Alaska Native leaders.
Carroll promised to hire locally and set up various social and education programs in the Bristol Bay region. She said the company, where she took over as CEO in March, would set up a partnership in January with residents to enhance the fishery.