Pebble forms advisory committee to help with range of issues

Stock photo of work camp at the Pebble deposit. (KDLG Photo)

The Pebble Partnership announced Thursday that is has officially formed a new advisory committee in an effort to expand its engagement with stakeholders. The company noted the commitments of five founding members: Willie Hensley, Kimberly Williams, Jim Maddy, General Joseph Ralston and Terrence ‘Rock’ Salt. Mike Heatwole is a spokesman for Pebble Mine.

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“We’re putting together an Advisory Committee to help advise us on a range of issues regarding Pebble, everything from engineering to environmental design to community benefits and concerns,” Heatwole said.

Jim Maddy is a past president of the League of Conservation Voters and the National Park Foundation. Terrence ‘Rock’ Salt is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Army Corps of Engineers. General Joe Ralston is a former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Kim Williams is a former executive director of Nunamta Aulukestai and a chief with the Curyung Tribe. And Willie Hensley is longtime Alaska leader who served in both the state House and Senate:

“Willie certainly has a great reputation and level of experience in Alaska,” Heatwole said. “He’s very respected in the Alaska Native community, and also has done a lot of work with the development community, and kind of bridges a lot of different stakeholder groups and interests.”

Heatwole said one of the first tasks the advisory committee will have is to recruit additional members to finalize a 10-12 member group. Members can receive a small amount of pay to compensate for their time, travel, and expense but can also decline that if they wish. Pebble said the participants will not be bound by confidentiality agreements or any other limitation on their rights of public expression, including to speak in opposition to the controversial project.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a range of views, from maybe proponent to neutral and process focused, to opponents, so that we’re getting critical input and advice,” Heatwole said.

Last week the EPA agreed to back down from a proposed preemptive veto, and Pebble agreed to put a project into the permitting phase within two and a half years. Pebble said they have a smaller, modern mine plan in the works and a number of initiatives they want to talk about soon with the region. Heatwole said the Advisory Committee will get to review these plans and offer feedback.

“Their advice will be shared with the company, and we’re simply going to try to take as much of that onboard as we can,” Heatwole said. “And really a pretty wide open in terms of what they can look at and the types of things they can comment to us about.”

Heatwole said Pebble hopes to get the committee members together for the first time this summer for a full project overview and trip out to the site north of Iliamna. After that the committee will meet formally 2-3 times a year, and more often by phone or video conference. Pebble has agreed to make the committee’s work and comments public, including any recommendations the company does not adopt.