Pebble mine foe puts up $415,000 to fight prospect

Becky BohrerAssociated Press

JUNEAU -- An Anchorage businessman is bankrolling an initiative aimed at stopping the Pebble mine.

Records filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission show Robert Gillam was the sole contributor to Alaskans for Bristol Bay-Vote Yes on the Save Our Salmon Initiative. Records show Gillam contributed $415,000 from Feb. 2 to Sept. 24.

Pebble Limited Partnership, which is seeking to advance the mine project, has been the largest contributor to the group aimed at defeating the measure. Pebble Partnership has given $200,000 -- the vast majority of financial contributions -- plus staff support to Defend Your Rights, Vote No on the Save Our Salmon Initiative.

The initiative, on the Lake and Peninsula Borough ballot, would bar development of any large-scale resource extraction activity, including mining, that would destroy or harm salmon habitat. It's aimed squarely at Pebble, a gold-and-copper prospect near the headwaters of Bristol Bay and a premier commercial sockeye salmon fishery.

Municipal borough elections are conducted by mail; ballots need to be postmarked by Oct. 4. The results of the election are expected Oct. 17.

Gillam said he's a lifelong Alaskan who's had a home in the borough for years and is willing to defend clean water, the salmon and residents who don't have the resources themselves to fight Pebble. He said he believes the vote will be "strongly in favor" of the Save Our Salmon initiative.

But the vote may not be the last word. Pebble has raised legal issues surrounding the measure and a judge likely will be asked to look at those if the initiative passes.

Associated Press