Mine opposition by regional corporation induces anger

Elizabeth Bluemink

Two Bristol Bay village corporations that own land near the massive copper and gold Pebble prospect said Tuesday they are outraged by their regional Native corporation's decision to oppose the proposed mine.

The board of the Bristol Bay Native Corp., which represents about 8,500 shareholders who live in the region or have ancestral ties to its villages, voted last week to oppose Pebble due to concern about its possible impact on fish runs.

The mining companies studying Pebble said they are disappointed with BBNC's vote but they plan to forge ahead with the project, which they think would be compatible with Bristol Bay's fisheries and would supply hundreds of jobs for decades.

On Tuesday, Alaska Peninsula Corp. and Pedro Bay Corp., two of roughly 30 village Native corporations in the Bristol Bay region, condemned the vote.

"BBNC's irresponsible actions, based on irrational fear mongering, threatens our very ability to survive," said Ralph Angasan, president of Alaska Peninsula. His company's shareholders derive from Newhalen, Kokhanok, South Naknek, Ugashik and Port Heiden. He said the villages are struggling from high living costs and unemployment.

Angasan's firm called the regional corporation's decision "a declaration of economic warfare on our shareholders, our villages and our future."

Pedro Bay Corp. chairman John Allen Adcox said the BBNC vote was "an outrageous and dictatorial act." His company owns land that links the Pebble prospect to lower Cook Inlet -- a possible corridor for transporting Pebble ore and other materials, but BBNC owns the mineral rights under the land, including its sand, rock and gravel.

It would be difficult for Pedro Bay Corp. to negotiate a road corridor agreement with Pebble's developers if the regional corporation refuses access to its sand, rock and gravel, Adcox said. He said his company has not decided whether to allow such access.

BBNC chief executive Jason Metrokin said the BBNC vote was not against development in general, as the village corporations assert. "Ultimately, BBNC doesn't feel that the Pebble mine project is a must-have project for the region to diversify its economy," he said.

The company has received feedback from shareholders who were happy and unhappy about the board's decision, he said.

Find Elizabeth Bluemink online at adn.com/contact/ebluemink or call 257-4317.

Blog: The Pebble Blog