To members of the Pebble advisory committee: Thanks, but no thanks.
For those on their first visit to our great state: Welcome to Alaska. As you will see, the seasons are changing and Alaskans everywhere are transitioning from summer into another short fall and long winter.
On Monday, you will gather in downtown Anchorage to discuss how to advance the Pebble mine project. There will be one thing noticeably absent from your meeting though, the people of Bristol Bay.
We will not be attending. It's nothing personal. While you might be new to the issue, the prospect of Northern Dynasty's Pebble project has weighed on our minds since 2001.
Bristol Bay has thought this over for a long time, and we have long since made up our minds: Pebble mine is not welcome here. The discussion is over.
It is an utter waste of your time, and ours, to sit down and discuss how to build a "better" mine in Bristol Bay. That's because our region does not want a Pebble mine in any size, form or configuration.
If Pebble Limited Partnership truly wanted to listen to the people of Bristol Bay, it would not convene a private meeting hundreds of miles away from the region on the day after moose-hunting season starts.
It would not spend years attacking us in court and in the media. If the Pebble partnership had been listening, it would know we have made our message clear for nearly 17 years: Do not build a mine at the headwaters of our fishery. Period.
We're sure Pebble sold this advisory committee as something socially responsible to do — a new paradigm on how to develop mining projects in rural Alaska. The problem though, is that not only is this committee's agenda predetermined, the idea of an advisory committee is one Pebble has tried before.
In 2007, Northern Dynasty hired the nonprofit Keystone Center to conduct essentially the same task your committee is undertaking now. The Keystone process utterly failed to convince Bristol Bay on Pebble's merits.
Nothing's changed in the intervening years. Your committee can work as hard as it wants, but it cannot fix the essential problem with Pebble: The people of Bristol Bay do not want it.
When Pebble invited us to your meeting, it asked us to comment on anything, including "engineering design, environmental safeguards and technology, alternatives assessments, environmental impacts, project mitigation, socio-economic impacts, and programs to enhance public benefits."
We only have one comment to share: We will never support a Pebble mine in Bristol Bay.
We do not want to discuss how to mitigate a disaster to our fisheries, or how to "better" engineer a mine in our headwaters. Your committee's mission carries the underlying presumption that the mine will be built. We reject that presumption.
We are not open to a mine, whether it's built all at once or phased in over time. We are not open to a mine that comes with local payouts. Bristol Bay is not open for mining.
The company has made it clear it will not listen to us. But you, as committee members, can. Listen to the voices in the region who have considered the issue carefully.
Listen to the Yup'ik, Denai'na and Alutiiq people who have thrived on this land since time immemorial. Listen to the small vessel captains who, for over 100 years, have sustainably operated a commercial fishery.
Listen to the entrepreneurs and small business owners who drive local economic development and bring visitors from all over the world to experience this incredible place. We all have a vision for a healthy, prosperous future in Bristol Bay.
And that future has no room for the Pebble mine.
Ralph Andersen is CEO of Bristol Bay Native Association; Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, is Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives; Robert Heyano is president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay; Brian Kraft is president of Katmai Service Providers; Myrtice Noden is executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai; Robin Samuelson is president of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Norm Van Vactor is CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp.; Nelli Williams is Alaska director of Trout Unlimited.