Pebble employees let go after backer withdraws
October 11th, 2013 | Carey Restino
According to reports from the Bristol Bay region, workers are being laid off weeks after the proposed mine's major funding backer withdrew from the project.
The Dillingham public radio station KDLG reported this week that workers and contractors were being let go, but Pebble Partnership staff declined to say how many were out of a job. Some 70 to 80 full-time workers were employed by the Pebble Limited Partnership prior to last week's layoffs, but spokesman for the partnership Mike Heatwole said the partnership is restructuring to accommodate the changes since Anglo American, which provided most of the capital for the proposed mine, pulled out. He did say that the employees who where let go were given severance packages, but noted that for those from the more remote areas, such as Iliamna, finding other employment options will be difficult.
Heartwole confirmed that the Pebble Partnership is reassessing its plans as it moves forward, but said the project is not closing its doors for good. He would not confirm if the changes would impact the partnership's plan to put forth a mine plan for permitting this fall.
The partnership between Northern Dynasty, a Canadian company, and Anglo American, formed in 2007. Anglo American's 50 percent share in the project was contingent on its bankrolling the prospect's development. It was required to fund $1.5 billion in project costs, according to the Pebble Project's website, an investment that would take the project all the way into its construction.
The Pebble Partnerships estimates Anglo American invested more than $500 million since entering into the project, and took a $300 million loss to withdraw from the project. Heartwole said that Anglo American's investment brought the mine a significant way forward toward being ready for permitting and design, making it potentially more attractive for investors. The partnership is now seeking a new partner in what is said to be a world-class deposit of gold, copper and molybdenum.
Many in the region opposed the mine, fearing it would negatively impact the area's valuable salmon run. Some, however, were supportive of the economic opportunity it offered, saying the region's few jobs caused great difficulty for those trying to live and raise families in Bristol Bay.