Northern Dynasty Chairman Robert Dickinson predicted Monday that opponents of North America’s largest copper deposit and largest known gold accumulation will fail miserably in their efforts to stop development of Alaska’s Pebble project.
In a presentation to the BMO 2007 Global Resources Conference in Tampa, Florida, Dickinson announced that Northern Dynasty is in the advanced stages of completing a consortium deal for permitting, operation and construction within months “at a substantial premium.” He attributed this to a huge demand for copper internationally, the nationalization of mines in other nations, and the lack of major new U.S. copper mines.
The company recently released new data which showed a 90% increase in the inferred resource in the Pebble East zone with 42.6 billion pounds of copper, 39.6 million ounces of gold and 2.7 billion pounds of molybdenum. In his presentation, Dickinson said total in-situ resources for the Pebble West and Pebble East deposits are 67 billion pounds of copper, 82 million ounces of gold and 4 billion pounds of moly.
Northern Dynasty now considers Pebble the second-largest deposit of its kind in the world, worth $200 billion at today’s metal prices. The Executive Director of Alaska’s Associated General Contractors called Pebble “the Prudhoe Bay of Alaska mining, which could be the state’s next great development opportunity.” However, state officials have stressed that Pebble’s resources have not yet been proven to be economically mineable.
Pebble has generated significant opposition in Alaska and in the U.S. sportsfishing industry because its location near rivers that feed into Bristol Bay’s salmon fisheries, one of the world’s largest sources of wild salmon.
However, Dickinson insisted Monday that the project will “not impact the fisheries of Alaska” with Bristol Bay located more than 100 miles from the Pebble project site. He added that Bristol Bay is fed by a “huge watershed made up of seven to eight rivers.”
Dickinson asserted that the “State of Alaska has a very rigorous permitting process and we will [successfully] march on through it.” Northern Dynasty has captured three years of environmental and socio-economic data by spending $50 million on 45 consultants who collected the information, Dickinson explained Monday to the audience of institutional investors, mining executives, and metals analysts.
He also noted that the project is located on Alaska state land and has obtained the finding that the highest and best use of the land is mining. However, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, has recently introduced legislation to enact the Alaska Wild Salmon Act, stipulating that fish would come first, no matter what kind of development activity takes place in the Bristol Bay watershed. The penalty for violating the proposed law would range $100,000 to $1 million a day for polluting Bristol Bay salmon streams.
Another bill introduced by Alaska Senate Majority Leader Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak would create the Jay Hammond State Game Refuge, which would encompass 5 million to 7 million acres of state land in the Bristol Bay headwaters. If the Stevens’ bill wins passage, it would eliminate storage of mine tailings. Northern Dynasty officials say the refuge would block other future resource development. The citizens’ group Truth About Pebble, which supports the Pebble project, asserts that both pieces of legislation “are intended to stop the Pebble project before it even applies for permits under Alaska law.”
Dickinson said $130 million has been spent the last four years on engineering, drilling and environmental and socioeconomic studies for the Pebble project. This year, Northern Dynasty intends to spend an additional $70 million including $40 million on drilling.
In response to questions from the audience, Dickinson said main Pebble opposition group, the Renewable Resource Coalition, tried to influence both local and gubernatorial races during last year’s elections and “failed miserably.”
When asked if Northern Dynasty would consider going underground with Pebble, Dickinson responded, “We’re not there yet. …We really need to drill off Pebble East.”