Story last updated at 7:05 PM on Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Northern Dynasty pays APOC fine



BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
STAFF WRITER

Mining company didn’t report lobbying expenses

Northern Dynasty Mines paid a fine this week for failing to properly report to the Alaska Public Offices Commission expenses related to its lobbying. The Vancouver, British Columbia, mining company was charged $1,480, or $10 a day, for not reporting on time the cost of a trip its chief operating officer, Bruce Jenkins, and other staff took in mid-February to Juneau to lobby the Alaska Legislature.

“I do believe that Northern Dynasty didn’t realize they were supposed to report. I don’t believe they were trying to hide anything,” said Tammy Kempton, regulator of lobbying with the Juneau APOC branch.

“It’s our intent to fully comply with state law, and when we learned that certain required expenses had not been disclosed, we immediately acted to correct the record,” Jenkins said in a statement released Wednesday.

The failure to report came to light after George Matz of the Cook Inlet Alliance filed a complaint with APOC. Cook Inlet Alliance is a project under the auspices of the Kachemak Bay Conservation Society to research and inform the public about mining and other activities in Cook Inlet.

Northern Dynasty proposes building a copper, gold, molybdenum and silver mine north of Lake Iliamna in the Bristol Bay area. It estimates the east Pebble deposit could contain perhaps 22.1 million ounces of gold.

While no mine plan has been filed, one proposal is to build an open pit mine.

Matz, an issues analyst with the alliance, noticed the requirement for Northern Dynasty to report when he was researching its lobbying efforts on APOC’s Web page. He said he saw an asterisk noting a column for Schedule B expenses on Northern Dynasty’s 2006 lobbyist reports. The Schedule B expenses were reported as zero.

“I’m a budget analyst. I read all the asterisks,” said Matz, a former employee with the Alaska Office of Management and Budget.

Because Northern Dynasty employs lobbyists, corporate officials or staff are required to report expenses related to lobbying efforts, Kempton said.

McKinley Capital, a corporation owned by Robert Gillam, employs Ashley Reed as a lobbyist. Kempton said Gillam also lobbied the Legislature last session — against the Pebble Mine project. Gillam would fall under the same reporting requirements as Jenkins. He has not yet filed a report, she said.

Gillam did not return a call for comment at press time.

Northern Dynasty also is required to report any payment to influence legislative action, such as trips paid for Alaska senators, representatives or their staff to visit the Pebble Mine project. On Sept. 14, Northern Dynasty flew Homer City council members Val McLay, Dennis Novak, Doug Stark and Beth Wythe to visit the Pebble Mine site. Jane Alberts, an aide to Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, also went on the trip.

Legislators are required to report the cost of any trips paid to the Select Committee on Legislative Ethics. Those reports are listed in a link off the APOC Web site at www.state.ak.us/apoc.

According to the 2006 report from Jan. 1 to Sept. 5, Northern Dynasty flew legislators or staff to the Pebble Mine on July 8, July 11, July 20 and Sept. 7. Lobbyist employers report quarterly, and Northern Dynasty has until the end of September to report those trips.

“They understand they do need to report those trips,” Kempton said.

For the 2005 legislator disclosures, Northern Dynasty paid for trips for legislators or staff on Aug. 4 and Sept. 14. It paid $933 to fly Sen. Gary Stevens on Aug. 4, and $870 each to fly Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and his aides Louis Flora and Katie Shows on Sept. 14. Northern Dynasty paid $6,216 for those two trips, including other legislators and staff.

Kempton said those trip expenses were reported in Northern Dynasty’s 2005 Employer of Lobbyist report.

In its statement, Northern Dynasty acknowledged providing tours of the proposed mine site for legislators and said it has always disclosed that information.

“Northern Dynasty Mines has been transparent with respect to the company’s lobbying and government affairs reports,” Jenkins said.

Matz said Northern Dynasty’s failure to properly report lobbying expenses raises questions of if the public should trust Northern Dynasty.

“To make mistakes on an APOC filing — which is pretty simple — what about the more complicated things like water quality permits?” he said. “It’s an indicator to me of Northern Dynasty’s ability to follow the law and file the report required by the law.”

There’s nothing wrong with legislators or aides taking trips to see the Pebble Mine site, as long as the trips are reported, Matz said.

“By knowing they made trips, you know they got one side of the story and they should get the other side of the story,” he said.

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

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