A member of the U.S. Senate is urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate one of the companies looking at developing a massive gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay region.
Northern Dynasty Minerals is one half of the Pebble Limited Partnership along with the giant mining company Anglo-American. The Partnership is looking at developing the massive Pebble Mine that would be located just north of Iliamna Lake. On Monday U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington sent a letter to the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for an investigation into what the Senator claims is contradictory information provided by Northern Dynasty Minerals to federal officials regarding building the Pebble Mine.
At issue is a document called the "Wardrop Report" that Northern Dynasty Minerals submitted to the SEC in February of 2011. That same report was also used by the EPA to prepare the draft "Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment". In her letter, Senator Cantwell claims that Northern Dynasty Minerals informed both the SEC and investors that the proposed Pebble Mine design and specifications are feasible and permittable in a press release issued in 2011. Cantwell claims that more recently, in August of last year, Northern Dynasty Minerals referred to the "Wardrop Report" as a "fantasy proposal" in the company's public testimony to the EPA. In her letter Cantwell claims that the contradictory use of the "Wardrop Report" is extremely concerning as it is unclear whether Northern Dynasty Minerals is misleading investors by attracting investment for a fantasy proposal or it is intentionally providing fraudulent testimony to the EPA.
Senator Cantwell is paying attention to the issue because the salmon resource in Bristol Bay supports a massive commercial fishery that is closely tied to Washington State. That's because many of the major seafood processors that operate in Bristol Bay are based in Washington including Peter Pan, Ocean Beauty, AGS, Icicle, and North Pacific Seafood's. Additionally nearly 1-thousand Washington State residents hold commercial fishing permits in Bristol Bay. Senator Cantwell wrapped up her letter by urging the SEC to launch an investigation. Northern Dynasty acquired the mining claims that encompass the Pebble Deposit back in 2001 and they entered into a 50-50 partnership with mining giant Anglo-American in 2007. The deposit is thought to contain over 50-billion pounds of copper and around 67-million ounces of gold. However, some estimates greatly increase those numbers. No matter what estimate you use the Pebble Deposit is considered one of the largest deposits of its type on earth and any development of that deposit would have a positive impact on the economy of the Iliamna region. However, many Native, fishing, and environmental groups believe a mine of the size needed to develop the deposit would pose risks to the surrounding natural environment and could be especially harmful to the Bristol Bay region's world famous and one of a kind salmon resource.
Efforts to get a comment from the Pebble Limited Partnership about the Cantwell letter and the call for a SEC investigation have so far been unsuccessful.