Story last updated at 7:07 PM on Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Anti-Pebble Mine group speaker to challenge Northern Dynasty



BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
STAFF WRITER

From Juneau to Iliamna, both sides of the Pebble Mine issue have been making their case to any group who will listen. Next week, the opponents of the mine give their persective. Scott Brennan, chief operating officer of the Renewable Resources Coalition, Anchorage, gives a Pebble Mine update from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

Brennan visits Homer at the invitation of the Cook Inlet Alliance, a citizen group concerned about the Pebble Project and related developments and potential impacts on the lower Cook Inlet. The alliance has been presenting a series of talks, including a forum in November on the future of fuel. The Renewable Resources Coalition has been the primary opponent of the Pebble Project and defines its mission as protecting “Alaska’s fish and game resources and the habitat upon which they depend; and to promote awareness of public policy issues that affect the well being of businesses and individuals that use these renewable resources.”

A former Western Washington University professor of environmental science and policy, Brennan will look at the effectiveness of the mine permitting process, plans for other mining in the Bristol Bay area and proposed legislation that could affect the Pebble Mine Project. He also discusses the issue of if stricter environmental regulation constitutes a taking of property rights.

Brennan also is scheduled to speak for 30 minutes before the Homer City Council’s Committee of the Whole on Monday and for 10 minutes before the council at its regular meeting, said Valerie Connor of the Cook Inlet Alliance.

Northern Dynasty, a Vancouver, B.C., Canada-owned company, has been exploring two mining prospects north of Iliamna Lake, Pebble West and Pebble East, with high potential for copper, gold and molybdenum. Northern Dynasty estimates the project could have 24.3 billion pounds of copper, 22.1 million ounces of gold and 1.6 billion pounds of molybdenum. Northern Dynasty has spent $125 million on the Pebble Project, including $50 million in environmental studies, said Northern Dynasty spokesman Sean Magee at a Homer Chamber of Commerce luncheon last month. How the mine would be built hasn’t been set, he said.

At his talk, Brennan will address the “takings” issue — an issue raised by a recent legal opinion from the Alaska Legislative Affairs Agency written at the request of Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer. In a memorandum to Seaton, Donald Bullock Jr. wrote that an owner of mineral rights could receive just compensation if increased regulations deprive the owner of all economic use of those rights.

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is considering a proposal by CIA member George Matz to create a fish refuge in the Tularik and Koktuli River areas near the Pebble Project. The Board of Fisheries tabled that proposal at its meeting last month. In a Jan. 7 memorandum to the Board of Fisheries, William Horn, Geoffrey Parker and Roger Flynn, attorneys for Trout Unlimited, challenged Bullock’s legal opinion. Trout Unlimited is part of the Renewable Resources Coalition. Citing numerous legal cases, the lawyers wrote that new standards on mining in the Bristol Bay area would not be a takings.

“It is highly unlikely that any mining claim holders in the Bristol Bay region seeking to develop a large scale open pit or similar mine would be able to satisfy the myriad legal requirements to establish a taking in the event that, in the future, a claimant applies for permits that are substantially modified or reasonably denied on the basis of elevated conservation standards,” they wrote.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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