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Business/Economy

Investors accuse Pebble mine executives and parent company of ‘misleading’ statements in lawsuits

  • Author: Alex DeMarban
  • Updated: December 30, 2020
  • Published December 30, 2020

The company behind the controversial Pebble copper and gold mining proposal in Southwest Alaska faces lawsuits from investors claiming it misled shareholders, contributing to plunging stock values since this summer.

Two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in New York this month assert that Northern Dynasty Minerals violated federal securities laws when Pebble executives did not fully and accurately provide information about the project. Northern Dynasty’s stock price has plunged 85% since the summer.

Developer Pebble Limited Partnership and parent company Northern Dynasty have for years sought to build the mine about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage. The proposal drew fierce pushback because it would be built near the headwaters of the valuable Bristol Bay salmon fishery.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in late November denied Pebble’s effort to win a permit, causing Northern Dynasty stocks to lose half their value that day alone.

Pebble says it is appealing that decision.

The lawsuits are an additional challenge for a company that has seen its fortunes plunge this year, including after two executives were caught discussing the project in secretly recorded videos that were released by an environmental group in September. The mine was also condemned by both of Alaska’s Republican senators.

A lawsuit filed Dec. 4 features McCarthy Lodge co-owner Neil Darish as the lead plaintiff.

Like the second lawsuit filed in mid-December, it accuses Pebble officials of making “materially false and misleading statements.” It also says they failed to disclose, among other things, that the project was not in line with federal law and that the company planned a much larger project than proposed.

Sean Magee, with Northern Dynasty, said the company could not comment on the lawsuits.

Pebble has called the Corps’ permit rejection “political,” and said the agency had previously found that the mine could safely coexist with the fishery.

Northern Dynasty has said it has no formal, defined plans for Pebble beyond the 20-year plan submitted to the Corps for approval. Additional development beyond the submitted plan, the company has said, would require new state and federal reviews.

Northern Dynasty’s stock on Wednesday sold for 33 cents a share. It sold for $2.23 in late July.

In an interview on Wednesday, Darish said he bought Northern Dynasty stock starting in 2017, with the hope that the project could be built without putting salmon at risk while still bringing economic benefits to Alaska.

But in September, Northern Dynasty President Ron Thiessen and now-former Pebble CEO Tom Collier were caught in the secretly recorded videos making statements that top Alaska politicians have said are false. They described a vision for the mine that was much broader than the 20-year project the company has applied for.

Darish said Collier lost his credibility. Collier’s statements harmed communities and people that could have benefited from the project, Darish said.

Darish said he lost more than $10,000 because of his Pebble investment.

He said he agreed to be named in the lawsuit to “shine a light on the truth.”

“I’m seeing contradictions (from Pebble) and I can also see that Pebble made big giant mistakes,” he said.

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