Mining giant Rio Tinto has donated its 19.1 percent share in Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals to two Alaska groups: the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation. In December 2013, Rio Tinto announced a strategic review of its investment in Northern Dynasty, after pressure to divest came from administrators of two large pension funds in California and New York City that have substantial shares in Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto’s share of Northern Dynasty will be divided equally between the two charities, representing the first time local organizations have held any financial interest in the Pebble prospect. Chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques stated that giving the shares ensured that “Alaskans will have a say in Pebble’s future development, and that any economic benefit supports Alaska’s ability to attract investment that creates jobs.”
How this ownership interest will affect development of the proposed Pebble mine is yet to be understood. Northern Dynasty Minerals CEO Ron Thiessen said in a press release that he looks forward to meeting the leadership of the two groups to “better understand their long-term goals and aspirations, and how their ownership interest in Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Project can make the greatest possible contribution to the people and communities they serve.”
The Alaska Community Foundation mission is to “cultivate, celebrate and sustain all forms of philanthropy to strengthen Alaska’s communities forever.” Since 2008, it has administered the Pebble Fund, a grant-funded initiative by the Pebble Limited Partnership to invest up to $5 million toward programs that would “enhance the health of Bristol Bay fisheries and contribute to a sustainable economic future in southwest Alaska.”
Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation is a nonprofit organization providing higher and vocational education scholarships to shareholders of Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC) as part of its mission to “provide support for an encourage shareholders to pursue educational opportunities and to promote and preserve cultural heritage.” The Education Foundation is organizationally separate from BBNC, which has a stated position opposing the development of Pebble mine.
Rio Tinto donates Pebble shares (Bristol Bay Times, April 11, 2014)
Powerful funds urge Rio Tinto to cut and run from Pebble (Alaska Dispatch, December 20, 2013)
Following lead of Anglo-American, Rio Tinto leaves Pebble project (Alaska Dispatch, April 7, 2014)