On Monday First Quantum Minerals Ltd. announced its interest in the Pebble project by entering into a framework agreement with Northern Dynasty Minerals. Instead of partnering immediately on the project, First Quantum will assess its role over a four-year period. In this post we take a closer look at a statement from First Quantum’s CEO, Phillip Pascal. The statement indicates the company wants to ensure stakeholder support before it takes the next step toward a 50% ownership in the project:
“We are very aware of the environmental and social sensitivity of this project and will utilize the lengthy option period to apply our extensive project development and operating experience to ensure that this project can be developed with the support of stakeholders.”
–First Quantum Minerals Ltd CEO Philip Pascal
“We are very aware of the environmental and social sensitivity of this project…
Bristol Bay is home to a world-class wild salmon fishery and some of the last intact salmon-based cultures on earth. Concerns about effects of Pebble’s development on the environment are centered on the possibility of damaging the fishery, and also include impacts on other wildlife and the subsistence way of life that is a major aspect of Native culture in rural Alaska.
For its part, Pebble Limited Partnership has said that it has taken many of these concerns into account when revising its mine plan. It released an Environmental Baseline Document in 2011, which will serve as the backbone of the permitting application. Studies included in the document “characterized,” or described existing conditions to serve as a “baseline” against which future changes could be compared.
…and will utilize the lengthy option period to apply our extensive project development and operating experience…
The Option Agreement, anticipated to be finalized in the 2nd quarter of 2018 after Northern Dynasty meets certain permitting and regulatory criteria, will be for a four-year term. What is First Quantum’s “extensive project development and operating experience”?
The company runs seven mines throughout the world, as well as a copper smelter. Current projects are in Zambia, Spain, Finland, Australia, and Turkey. Experience in northern climes is limited to the Finland operation and a brief agreement with Millrock Resources to explore on the Alaska Peninsula (2014-2017).
….to ensure that this project can be developed with the support of stakeholders.”
Ensuring support of local stakeholders could be a challenge, as opposition to the project has held steadfast over the years. In March 2017 a poll of voters conducted by Bristol Bay Native Corporation, which has a position against development of Pebble mine, found that a majority of voters in every region of Alaska are opposed, with up to 64% opposed in rural Alaska.
However, First Quantum has some experience in working with rural communities to address their concerns. Its Haquira project in Peru is adjacent to the Chinese-backed Las Bambas copper mine. Opposition to Las Bambas has been very strong, including a protest that attracted 15,000 people, clashes with police resulting in four deaths, and a locally-led road blockade as recently as August 2017. Although Las Bambas is not affiliated with First Quantum, its proximity has made outreach efforts all the more essential to the successful development of Haquira.