After six years and a $541 million investment, Anglo American, one of the world’s largest mining companies, pulled out its stake in the Pebble Mine project, a gold mine estimated to be valued at about $300 billion, or even more.
Left behind with 100 percent ownership of the project, which is in the Alaskan Peninsula, is Northern Dynasty, a much smaller mining company. What is not fully understood are the reasons for Anglo American’s withdrawal after so much investment of time and money?
According to Anglo’s chief executive officer Mark Cutifani, the abandonment of the project is for strictly business reasons concerned with the company’s efforts to “prioritize capital to projects with the highest value and lowest risks.”
Whether that is the whole truth or not, environmentalists and Native American communities in the area would be happy to see a complete shut-down of the development of the Pebble Mine. The mine is located upstream from the salmon fisheries in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, where about half of the planet’s sockeye salmon spawn. Perhaps Anglo American is afraid that the Environmental Protection Agency will one day block the mine. (The Clean Water Act gives the EPA the power to close down the mine for environmental reasons.)
It is also possible that the No Dirty Gold campaign also swayed Anglo away from the mine. This effort by 50 prominent gold buyers and retailers, who signed a promise not to buy gold from Pebble Mine, could have dimmed Anglo’s enthusiasm for the project.
“I do not know whether the No Dirty Gold campaign contributed to Anglo American’s decision. I do believe that the campaign was a meaningful part of very broad-based opposition,” says Michael Kowalski, the CEO of Tiffany, one of the most prominent signatories of the preemptive boycott.
Kowalski added that opposition to the mine is broad-based, including most Bristol Bay residents, commercial and sport fishermen, jewelers, and “all those concerned with protecting the Bristol Bay ecosystem. … I assume that this diverse, robust opposition was reflected in a risk/return assessment of this project.”
Anglo continues to deny that the opposing forces had anything to do with the company’s decision to exit the mine. Spokesman for Anglo, James Wyatt-Tilby said no, opposition from environmentalists and fear of being denied permits from the EPA were not a factor.
“Our views on Pebble as a mining project are unchanged. … We wish the project well, and express our thanks to those who have supported Pebble.” Asked directly about the No Dirty Gold campaign, he declined to bite, reiterating that “our decision to withdraw from the project is the result of an internal prioritization of the many projects that we have in our portfolio.”