Judge tells Pebble Mine co. to provide information

Posted: Thursday, November 25, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A judge Wednesday told the companies developing the Pebble Mine to produce information needed for an upcoming legal fight over the huge copper and gold deposit in southwest Alaska, even if it means working during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

The companies had argued the information was proprietary, a notion rejected Wednesday by Judge Eric Aarseth. He said he did not believe the information contained in drilling logs concerning bore holes needs to be kept secret.

"I don't see how there is going to be any type of issue regarding trade secrets with this information," the judge said during an evidentiary hearing in Superior Court.

The lawsuit was brought by Nunamta Aulukestai, a coalition of eight Bristol Bay village corporations trying to stop development of the mine that sits near the world's most productive wild sockeye salmon streams. A trial is to begin Dec. 6.

Aarseth told lawyer Matthew Singer that he wants the Pebble Partnership to make its "best effort" to produce the information by Tuesday, even if it means bringing someone in on Friday and working the weekend.

Singer represents the Pebble Partnership, the group representing mining companies Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals, which are seeking to develop the deposit of copper, gold and molybdenum valued at billions of dollars.

Singer argued unsuccessfully that it would be difficult to pull all the information out of Pebble's database and that it had already been provided in other forms.

Nunamta Aulukestai lawyers said they have been trying to get the information since March.

In their lawsuit, the village corporations argue that state-issued permits to explore Pebble violate the Alaska Constitution. They say the state constitution requires that Alaska resources be developed for the maximum benefit of the people under a sustained yield principle.

But the state contends that it is not required by the state constitution to do certain things when making land decisions concerning upland hard rock mining.

Nunamta Aulukestai, which means "Caretakers of the Land" in Yup'ik, also contends that the state issued Pebble exploration permits for more than a decade with no public notice or findings on impacts to the area's natural resources, including salmon-producing rivers.

Aarseth ruled this summer that there was enough evidence to allow the constitutional concerns to be heard at trial.

Nunamta Aulukestai lawyer Nancy Wainwright told the judge that without clear information from Pebble, it's uncertain going into the trial even how many exploratory bore holes have been drilled. The state puts the number at 1,086 but it looks like there could be substantially more, she said.

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