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Vol. 22, No. 46 Week of November 12, 2017
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

Mining News: Hamilton joins Pebble

Former University of Alaska president aims to bring reason to Pebble dialogue

Shane Lasley

Mining News

With the addition of Mark Hamilton as executive vice president of external affairs, the Pebble Limited Partnership continues to build upon an impressive team of Alaska-based leaders as it prepares to advance the world-class Pebble copper mine project towards permitting.

"I'm delighted to join the Pebble team as we begin the long and rigorous journey toward permitting a mine engineered to protect the environment and the world-class fisheries of Bristol Bay," Hamilton said.

Hamilton is renowned in Alaska for the time he spent as president of the University of Alaska, where he implemented a highly successful program to entice Alaska’s brightest high school graduates to stay in Alaska with scholarships to those that chose UA to further their educations.

"Mark Hamilton is among Alaska's best known and most highly respected residents, in large part for his tremendous accomplishments and service to the state over 12 years as president of the University of Alaska," said Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier.

While Hamilton’s 1998 to 2010 tenure as University of Alaska president earned him great respect in Alaska, his ability to broker peaceful resolutions in volatile situations during a 31-year career in the U.S. Army earned him high honors on the national level.

Highlights from his distinguished Army career include playing a key role in negotiating a peaceful resolution to a 12-year civil war El Salvador, while heading the US Military Group in the tumultuous country at the time. The following year, his negotiations with Somalian warlords allowed the U.S. to withdraw troops.

Hamilton was awarded both the Distinguished Service Medal and the Joint Distinguished Service Medal, the highest peacetime honors bestowed by the U.S. Army and Armed Forces, respectively.

"We fully expect Mark's vision, his leadership and his credibility to materially advance our efforts to re-position the Pebble Project, to ensure it provides meaningful and enduring benefits to the people of Bristol Bay and Alaska, and to help create the social and political conditions necessary to permit this project in the years ahead,” Collier added.

Return to reason

Hamilton’s knack for finding common ground amongst widely differing views will come into play as he sits down with Alaska Native, political, business and community leaders throughout the state to better understand their views and consider their advice as the Pebble Partnership advances a project to permitting that considers the environmental, economic and social factors of developing the world-class copper-gold-molybdenum deposit into a mine.

"Like other Alaska mines, I have every confidence that Pebble will be developed safely, in a manner that protects the clean water and healthy fish and wildlife that all Alaskans value,” said Hamilton “Perhaps more importantly, I think Pebble is a critically important project at this juncture in our state's history, and one that will make tremendous long-term contributions to the economic and social well-being of our residents.”

While Pebble is a special case, due to be locating near the world-class Bristol Bay salmon fishery, the distinguished Army veteran believes the contention surrounding this project is symptomatic of the polarization happening in the United States.

He has become increasingly concerned about the "end of reason" when it comes to public discussions surrounding politics and resource development in the United States.

Pebble’s newest VP believes that people and groups oftentimes form strong opinions and then refuse to engage in informative and respectful dialogue – a "don't confuse me with the facts, I already have my bumper sticker" dynamic.

"I believe in reason," Hamilton explained. "I believe in coming to the table to contest different opinions respectfully and honestly; refusing to hear the evidence that supports opinions contrary to our own signals the rejection of the dialectic and the end of reason.”

"That is where the Pebble Project, like so many contentious issues in American life, stands today but I intend to appeal to my fellow Alaskans to rise above that caustic dynamic, and to consider this project based on its merits – on the facts, rather than on fear,” he added.

World-class team

Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ron Thiessen said the addition of an Alaskan of Hamilton's stature and credibility is evidence of the Pebble Partnership’s commitment to assembling a world-class senior management and technical team in Alaska.

In October, the Pebble Partnership strengthened this technical team with the additions of Stephen Hodgson as senior vice president of engineering and project director, and James Fueg as vice president of permitting.

An engineer with more than four decades of consulting and management experience, Hodgson’s résumé includes feasibility-level design, implementation and mine operations at some of the most significant mineral development projects in the world. This list includes the Pine Point zinc mine in northern Canada, Red Dog zinc mine in Alaska, Antamina copper-gold mine in Peru, and the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia.

Hodgson has led the engineering group at Northern Dynasty and played a central role on the engineering team for Pebble for more than a decade.

In his new role, Hodgson will be responsible for all aspects of Pebble Mine project design, engineering and financial studies, and regulatory compliance.

Fueg, an Alaska-based geologist and a geophysicist with more than 25 years of experience in mineral exploration and resource development, will manage all things related to Pebble’s permitting process. This includes management of environmental and socioeconomic studies, liaison with governmental agencies and management of Pebble's forthcoming environmental impact statement, the key process to mine permitting under the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act.

Considering that Fueg played a similar role in managing EIS and NEPA permitting process for Donlin Gold, another world-class mine project in Alaska, the Pebble Partnership would be hard pressed to find a more qualified candidate.

Already through the most rigorous stages of the EIS process, a final record of decision for Donlin is expected early in 2018.

“We now have a dedicated leadership team in place in Anchorage that is not only committed to the financial and permitting success of the Pebble Project, but one that shares Alaskans' interests in ensuring our project protects clean water, healthy fisheries and traditional ways of life, while making a profound positive contribution to the people and economies of the region and the state," said Collier.

With its leadership team in place, the Pebble Partnership plans to initiate permitting for Pebble by the end of the year.

"With respect to the other major objective Northern Dynasty has indicated it will achieve this year – that of securing a new major funding partner for the Pebble Partnership – we continue to be on track and making excellent progress," Thiessen said. "We will have more to report before the end of the year."

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