While the new advisory committee for the Pebble Partnership met for the first-time in Anchorage on Monday, opponents of the Pebble Mine gathered outside for a rally.
Some opponents of the mine, were invited to the meeting. But many, like Alannah Hurley with the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, declined because tribal governments have already made their position clear.
“Why would the people of Bristol Bay waste our time to do this again so that the Pebble Limited Partnership could pretend that they’re listening to the stakeholders, the people of Bristol Bay, and Alaskans. If they were listening, they would have been gone a decade ago.”
Protesters met outside of the Hotel Captain Cook, where the advisory committee had planned to meet.
But part way through the rally, Hurley announced that the meeting had been relocated.
“You all scared them away and they moved to a different location,” Hurley said. “They are literally hiding from Alaskans on the discussion of Pebble Mine.”
Pebble spokesperson Mike Heatwole said the private meeting was moved because the Captain Cook’s 10th floor conference room, where the meeting was planned, is under construction. Instead, the meeting was held at a different hotel downtown.
Heatwole said the company formed the advisory committee to include local perspectives in the conversation.
“That’s really to give us a range of feedback, ask us hard questions, potentially offer ideas that we might not have thought of and really kick the tires aggressively, if you will, on all the things that a development at Pebble could be – the social concerns, the environmental concerns, the economic opportunities,” Heatwole said.
Willie Hensley, who served in the state legislature and has long been an advocate for Alaska Native rights, is among those who have committed to sit on the advisory committee.
Heatwole said the company plans to release a smaller development plan this fall, along with a transportation design to get minerals out.
With a more favorable administration in Washington DC and an EPA proposal to withdraw a determination blocking development of the mine, Heatwole said the company is forging ahead.
“So the remaining goals are to file a permit by the end of this year along with having a longer-term partner to get us through that permitting window,” Heatwole said.
The 90-day comment period on the EPA’s proposal to withdraw their opposition to the mine ends October 17th.
This story contained contributions from Henry Leasia of Alaska Public Media.