Anglo pulls out of controversial Alaskan copper project

16th September 2013

By: Martin Creamer

Creamer Media Editor


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JOHANNESBURG ( – Diversified mining major Anglo American has decided to withdraw from the Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum project in Alaska, which has evoked strong public opposition from the local fishing community.

Anglo expects its year-end write-off of Pebble to total $300-million.

Northern Dynasty Minerals of Canada, which has had the Pebble Limited Partnership with Anglo for the past six years ago, will now go it alone and have the full, sole benefit of the $541-million spent on the project so far.

Northern Dynasty shares fell 38% to C$1.45 on the TSX early on Monday, after earlier dropping as much as 42%. The company's shares traded as high as C20.72 early in 2011.

“Despite our belief that Pebble is a deposit of rare magnitude and quality, we have taken the decision to withdraw following a thorough assessment of our extensive pipeline of long-dated project options,” said Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani, whose focus is on prioritising capital to projects with the highest value and lowest risk.

Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen said, however, that Anglo’s withdrawal had opened the door to new exciting possibilities for Pebble, in south-west Alaska, 320 km south-west of Anchorage on state land designated for mineral exploration and development, which is said to contain 55-billion pounds of copper, 66.9-million ounces of gold and 3.3-billion pounds of molybdenum, as well as silver, palladium and rhenium.

Former Anglo CEO Cynthia Carroll bought into the project in icy Alaska in 2007 in pursuit of “one of the very few remaining large-scale copper deposits in the world”.

“Pebble is a unique low-cost, long-life project,” Carroll enthused at the time – but the project ran into strong opposition from native communities.

Despite its potential to support 15 000 jobs and contribute $2.5-billion-plus a year to US gross domestic product over decades of production, the concern of the local Eskimo fishing community centres on Bristol Bay’s ‘renewable’ wild salmon fishery being negatively impacted by the ‘non-renewable’ Pebble mine potentially disposing waste into fishing waters.

The Stop Pebble initiative argues that the proposed Pebble mine will be gouged out of an American paradise that is filled with salmon, bears, moose, caribou, wolves and whales and that has sustained local livelihoods for thousands of years.

More than 67 varieties of state and federal permits will be required before construction can begin and more than a dozen state and federal entities will oversee the process.

Acquired by Northern Dynasty in 2001, Pebble is, however, clearly a project that could help to close the economic void that is being left by depleting Alaskan oil.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter


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