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Pebble partners donate $5 million for fisheries

Posted: Sunday, March 09, 2008

ANCHORAGE The Pebble Partnership is donating $5 million to enhance fisheries and sustain local economies.

Partners supporting development of the Pebble project in Southwest Alaska say they will contribute $5 million to enhance fisheries and sustain the economies of communities in the region.

The Pebble Partnership, which includes Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. and Anglo American, has agreed to make the $5 million charitable gift to the Alaska Community Foundation, based in Anchorage. The nonprofit foundation would, in turn, provide financial management and administrative services, while a stakeholder advisory board, yet to be named, would review applications for grants and make recommendations on approving them.

Northern Dynasty, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, recently partnered with Anglo American, a South African-based mining and natural resources firm. Partnership officials, including Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll, have said they want to establish partnerships that not only protect, but also enhance the fisheries of Bristol Bay.

"The Pebble Fund is an investment by the Pebble Partnership in the long-term social, economic and environmental health of Bristol Bay and its communities," the partnership said in announcing the fund Feb. 22.

The fund will allocate $1 million a year over five years to support community-led initiatives.

Independent consultant Margaret King of Anchorage was contracted to put together the stakeholders group that will make recommendations on how to spend the funds.

"We know this (mine) project won't be successful unless we can prove to people it can co-exist with healthy fisheries and wildlife and traditional ways of life," said Sean Mcgee, spokesman for the Pebble Partnership.

The proposed copper, gold and molybdenum mine would lie at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, and numerous fishing and hunting entities are concerned that the mine will pollute the waters and hurt the fishery.

"Last time I looked, the fishery was in pretty good shape," said Bob Waldrop, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. The fledging association is funded by a tax on the harvest, and was approved by nearly 2,000 fishermen in the drift net fleet. Board members will decide in future meetings how to use that tax money to improve fisheries infrastructure in the region.

"It's kind of hard to improve on the world's most valuable sockeye fishery," Waldrop said. "We do want to improve the quality of the harvest, the revenue side and increase demand. This is not a nonprofit enterprise, (but) we don't have an ulterior motive. We simply want to improve the value of the fishery for all the participants."

Waldrop said the board of the regional seafood development association had not yet had a chance to discuss whether they would apply for any of these funds, "but it's very unlikely," he said.

Tim Bristol, Alaska program director for Trout Unlimited, expressed skepticism about the mine proponents' motives in making the donation.

"It would be interesting for people to look at other places in the world where Anglo offered up initiatives like this, and see how it turned out for the local communities," he said. "I think you would find the results are mixed at best. I think this is a playbook they have used over and over again, and I think at five million bucks, they are seriously undervaluing the Bristol Bay fishery."

Bristol said an economic study conducted for Trout Unlimited by John Duffield of the mathematical sciences department of the University of Montana showed that the commercial fishery in Bristol Bay alone was worth more than $354 million last year, while the sport fishery is worth at least $60 million a year. The wild salmon sport and commercial fisheries also employ roughly 6,500 people, he said.



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