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ANCHORAGE - A group of Alaskans fighting the state over permits for the Pebble Mine wants an apology because they say the person representing mining companies accused them of "legal terrorism."
Nunamta Aulukestai, a coalition of nine Bristol Bay Native corporations, said Thursday the head of the Pebble Partnership - the limited partnership representing Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals - insulted them.
Nunamta Aulukestai - "Caretakers of our Lands" in Yup'ik - ran a full-page ad Thursday in the Anchorage Daily News and the Bristol Bay Times asking John Shively to apologize.
Shively said he did not mean to indicate that any individual was a terrorist. He said his words were directed at Trustees for Alaska, the law firm representing Nunamta Aulukestai.
"I did not call any individual a legal terrorist for opposing Pebble. They have misinterpreted what I said," Shively said.
Trish Rolfe, Trustees for Alaska's executive director, said the inflammatory rhetoric is not helpful.
"If defending the laws of Alaska and the United States is considered terrorism, protecting clean air and clean water ... then, what has this country become?" she said.
The village corporations argue exploratory permits for the huge copper and gold deposit in southwest Alaska, near some of the world's most productive wild salmon streams, violate the state constitution because they were issued without providing public notice, or any findings on impacts the drilling would have on natural resources.
A Superior Court judge determined the constitutional issues should be heard. The trial began this week in Anchorage.
In his 20-minute speech to the Resource Development Council on Nov. 18, Shively brought up the lawsuit and accused Trustees of Alaska of finding "a few disgruntled people" to help them engage in what he described as "legal terrorism."
Shively said more than 30 million pages of documents have been requested.
"What they have done here is what I call 'legal terrorism,"' he said.
Nunamta Aulukestai's ad is a letter addressed to Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll in London. The letter says Shively's comments are "inaccurate at best and a grave insult to those who oppose Pebble."
It goes on to say, "We are not sure how it works in South Africa, London, Chili and Canada where you are based, however, here in Alaska we don't accuse law-abiding citizens of terrorism."
Nunamta Aulukestai's executive director, Kim Williams, said the Pebble Partnership decided to become a party to the lawsuit alongside the state and has been taking full advantage of America's legal system.
Williams said the legal system is the process that is used in America to solve differences.
"For them to take it to this extreme level of terrorism and to use this word 'terrorism,' that makes it really objectionable," she said.