Dunleavy letter supports Pebble mine

Mine opponents: Governor sounds like a media consultant for Pebble Limited Partnership

Norm Van Vactor, executive director of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. in Dillingham, speaks for opponents of the Pebble mine in the pouring rain in Anchorage. Photo by Margaret Bauman/The Cordova Times

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s adamant support of a potential Canadian investor’s interest in the proposed Pebble mine is drawing criticism from project opponents who say he sounds more like a paid media consultant for the mine than the governor of Alaska.

The observation from Norm Van Vactor, president of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., came after Van Vactor read the July 30 letter sent by Dunleavy to Randy Smallwood president and CEO of Wheaton Previous Metals Corp., in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The letter was obtained by Alaska Public Media through a public records request, which made a copy available to Van Vactor.

“Implications are from a couple of paragraphs that the governor is obviously working closely with them,” Van Vactor said. “This guy doesn’t represent the interests of the vast majority of people in Alaska and certainly not Bristol Bay.”

Dunleavy’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the governor’s comments in the letter to Smallwood.

“A fair, efficient and thorough permitting process, without interference and threats from project opponents, is essential to the future economic growth of Alaska,” the governor wrote. “I am committed to making that happen, and once appropriate permits are grant, I am equally committed to removing obstacles that would hinder immediate construction.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Photo courtesy Alaska Governor's Office
Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Photo courtesy Alaska Governor’s Office

Dunleavy also wrote that “the state will stand by those who invest in Alaska and will actively help defend them from frivolous and scurrilous attacks.”

The governor said he had read a recent letter received by Smallwood from the Natural Resources Defense Council, “essentially threatening you not to invest in the Pebble project.”

He offered to meet with Smallwood to further discuss the matter.

Van Vactor sent his own email to Smallwood on Aug. 27, saying that contrary to what Dunleavy said, “I do not see my activities and those that we work with as ‘frivolous’ or ‘scurrilous’.”

Van Vactor invited Smallwood to come visit the Bristol Bay region to get a better understanding of why area residents so strongly oppose the mine,

He also attached a letter signed by representatives of commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen and United Tribes of Bristol Bay. The notion that years of active opposition to the mine project is a mere tactic of outside environmental organizations is demonstrably false, insulting to the people of Bristol Bay and Alaska, the letter said.

“Even the slightest due diligence by any potential investor will quickly reveal that opposition to the Pebble mine has been driven and led by those of us whose lives communities, culture and economic wellbeing would unavoidably be put at risk by this project because of the threat that it poses to the health of our incomparable fishery and the regional resources that depend on it.”