A coalition of groups opposed to the Pebble Mine have written to Anglo American, one of the project's major partners, requesting information concerning its environmental track record and that of its subsidiaries.
According to the coalition, annual reports issued by Anglo American PLC, whose wholly owned subsidiary is a 50-50 partner in the Pebble project with a wholly owned affiliate of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., indicate 723 "level 2" environmental incidents occurring between 2003 and 2007 in its worldwide operations.
Members of the groups say they want to know the details and say they are relying on Anglo's stated commitment to corporate transparency.
"Of particular interest to our organizations and businesses is your commitment that Anglo American 'will not be associated with the development of a mine that damages Alaska's Bristol Bay fishery and wildlife ...'" the groups said in an Oct. 22 letter to Anglo CEO Cynthia Carroll.
The groups also requested information concerning legal actions Anglo American has been party to over the past five years, citing Anglo's 2007 annual report that showed the company was involved in 32 cases. They further cited 15 criminal and 10 civil actions initiated against the company as described in Anglo's 2005 report.
According to the groups' letter, claims against Anglo American's Base Metals operations in Brazil and Chile included one related to a fish kill. The letter also provided a partial list of "level 2" incidents cited in Anglo American reports.
A press release accompanying the letter said that in most cases Anglo provided no details about the incidents, only describing them as having moderate impacts. In the few cases that were described, problems included substantial mine waste spills into rivers, streams, and residential areas, the groups said.
Bobby Andrew, spokesperson for the Alaska Native organization Nunamta Aulukestai, a member of the group, called Anglo's reporting without explaining "troubling," and asked the company to be "completely candid" with the Native people of Bristol Bay.
Joining the Native organization in signing the appeal to Anglo were representatives of the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Marketing Association (AIFMA), the Renewable Resources Coalition, the Bristol Bay Driftnetters' Association and Leader Creek Fisheries, who said they wanted "a better understanding" of the company's record and the risks posed to Bristol Bay salmon fishing and subsistence lifestyles by mine development.
"Even well-intentioned companies have accidents, which we can't afford at Bristol Bay," said David Harsila, a lifelong fisherman and president of AIFMA.
The groups say they fear even a moderate spill in the Bristol Bay watershed where the planned mine is located could have dramatic impacts on salmon.
"Anglo American has asked us to trust them, but first they have to be straight with us," said Lindsay Bloom, a member of AIFMA. "Accidents happen. Just look at the Exxon Valdez disaster."
Anglo CEO Carroll is located in London. An e-mail seeking comment was not immediately answered.
The proposed Pebble mine would be one of the largest such mines in the world. Tests have shown large deposits of copper, gold and molybdenum.
The mine, northwest of Iliamna, is located in the Bristol Bay watershed.
Hal Spence can be reached at email@example.com.
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