Pebble Mine should be stopped in its tracks

View original story in the Juneau Empire here.

Posted May 24, 2017 07:50 am - Updated May 24, 2017 09:17 am 


For the Juneau Empire

Alaska Seafood is a brand. The people of Alaska own the brand and the state government protects the brand through strict regulation and oversight. Millions of state, federal and private dollars have been invested in the Alaska Seafood brand and thousands of jobs depend on it. When a brand is tarnished, it can take years to recover. Sometimes, the brand is ruined forever.

That is why I believe the Pebble Mine is a project that should be stopped in its tracks now. The threat to Alaska’s economy and the investments made to protect our Alaska Seafood brand far outweigh whatever dubious benefits are offered by Northern Dynasty, another foreign corporation in a long list of Outside-owned oil and mineral extractors with no stake in protecting the Alaska brand.

I worked at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute from October 1989 to March 2002. For the last five years, I was the executive director. When I started at ASMI, the staff was 100 percent engaged in a battle to save the Alaska Seafood brand from the March 24 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The office was like a war room. Bulletins went out every day to the press and the food industry to keep the facts in front of them. ASMI educated. ASMI convinced. ASMI saved the Alaska Seafood brand.

Tim Sohn wrote an article titled “Alaska’s Pebble Mine and the Legend of Trump’s Gold” in the May 2 edition of the New Yorker magazine with this warning: “On Valentine’s Day, Kerrisdale Capital Management, a New York-based hedge fund with a specialty in shorting companies it views as overvalued, released a bearish report. ‘We believe Northern Dynasty is worthless,’ it read. ‘Though the legal and regulatory problems that will continue to plague the Pebble Mine Project even under a Trump presidency are enormous, the project’s Achilles’ heel is more fundamental: economics.’” It bears repeating that the hedge fund said it was worthless. With Pebble Mine investors, the bottom line is the bottom line. That’s why it should be our decision as Alaskans when it comes to protecting our resources and our brand. We’ve invested too much in it to lose it to Northern Dynasty Minerals, a Canadian company that will leave Alaska when their job is done of half-done. Haven’t we learned our lesson from Exxon and British Petroleum when it comes to safeguards, accidents, and accountability?

As Mr. Sohn so aptly described it, “Northern Dynasty has skillfully exploited the Trump narrative to reignite enthusiasm for a company that the market had left for dead. But telling a good story is all Northern Dynasty has ever been good at.” The state constitution stipulates that Alaska’s resources will be developed for the maximum benefit to Alaskans. Period.

• Barbara Belknap is the former Executive Director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. She lives in Juneau.