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Vol. 12, No. 52 Week of December 30, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

MINING NEWS:Mining and fish can coexist

Pebble spokesman tells Anchorage Chamber that there is precedent for enviro-responsible mining; partnership sets up in Anchorage

Shane Lasley

Mining News

Sean Magee, spokesman for The Pebble Limited Partnership, told members of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce Dec. 3 that the Pebble Mine Project could be developed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.

“There are lots of precedents in our part of the world where mining does coexist with fisheries,” Magee told the Anchorage audience.

He gave examples of several modern large-scale mines in Alaska and British Columbia that are not only coexisting with the fish habitat but, in some cases, improving it.

Even with the existence of eight large mines, including Canada’s largest copper mine, in the Fraser River Valley of British Columbia, the salmon population is healthy and is on the rise, Magee said.

He cited Red Dog, Greens Creek, and Fort Knox mines as prime examples of how large mines in Alaska have been environmentally safe and responsible.

Environmental and social factors will affect mine plan

The Pebble Limited Partnership is a 50-50 venture between Anglo American PLC and Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. to explore and develop the Pebble Project, a mammoth copper-gold-molybdenum property in Southwest Alaska. It contains an estimated 7.45 billion tons of ore hosting 67.3 billion pounds of copper, 81.7 million ounces of gold, and 4.05 billion pounds of molybdenum.

By the end of 2007, $85 million will have been spent on socio/economic and environmental studies at the Pebble Project.

“Environmental and social factors will weigh heavily on what we ultimately propose,” said Magee, when speaking about whether Pebble would be an open pit mine, underground mine, or a combination.

The Pebble Mine would have a footprint of about 15 square miles, about 24 square kilometers. Though it will not be a small project, Magee said Pebble’s impact will all be within that area.

Mine not imminent

Magee told the audience that despite popular belief, Pebble Mine is not imminent. He said the partnership has yet to decide whether to develop Pebble and will not do so until the entire mineral resource has been defined and environmental and socio/economic studies have been completed. The earliest, that this could happen, would be in 2009.

If the Partnership decides to move forward with Pebble, another three years of permitting will be required before mining could begin, making 2012 the earliest production date for the mine project

If the Pebble Mine Project is developed, it would have a significant impact on Alaska’s economy, Magee said. Billions in tax revenue also would go to the state. The proposed mine would employ some 1,000 full-time workers for the mine’s entire operating life, an estimated 50 to 100 years.

Magee said Pebble’s developers employed about 600 people at the project this year, 80 percent of whom were Alaskans and 125 workers came from communities in the Bristol Bay region. About $8 million was spent on wages and contracts in Bristol Bay communities this year.

Magee said that the partnership is committed to the training and hiring of locals.

Looking toward 2008

Infrastructure would be another important factor for the mine. The partnership has proposed building a 100-mile road from Pebble to a saltwater port on Cook Inlet.

The company is also looking at electrical power coming from a 300 megawatt gas-fired generator at Nikiski.

If Pebble is developed as an underground mine, more power will be required for its operations. The partnership is working with Homer Electric Association on alternatives for supplying the power needed to operate the mine.

Magee said the partnership is also working with local communities to ensure that they benefit from infrastructure put in place to operate the mine.

At Pebble the drill season is winding down and assay results on 200,000 feet drilled in 2007 are still coming in.

“By the time we finish our exploration work in 2007 and finalize our new resource estimate, (Pebble) will probably be the largest resource of its type in the world,” Magee said.

The Pebble Partnership expects to have a new resource estimate incorporating the results of 2007 drilling in the first quarter of 2008.

The partnership still must finalize a budget for the 2008 drill season, but Magee told Mining News that it will be a similar program to the one executed in 2007.

Next year, the partnership aims to focus entirely on Pebble East, continuing to define the resource by converting inferred resources to the measured and indicated category, Magee said. Step-out drilling to the north and south where Pebble East is still open also will be conducted, he said.

Magee told Mining News that the current focus of the company is putting together its project team in Alaska. He said senior leadership for Anglo American, including the president and CEO, will be working out of the Pebble Partnership corporate office in Anchorage. There are currently about 10 people working there, and that number will increase to some 30 to 40 employees when the office is fully staffed in the spring.

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