Without its monied partner, Alaska's Pebble Mine developers is cutting staff and ending contracts

Anchorage Daily NewsOctober 7, 2013 

Developers of the proposed Pebble gold and copper mine are laying off staff and ending contracts as a result of partner Anglo American pulling out of the project, a spokesman said Monday.

Pebble Partnership, which has one remaining partner, Northern Dynasty, is reassessing its work and budget, spokesman Mike Heatwole said.

Of Pebble's 70 or so direct employees, an untold number were let go last week, he said. The employees are being given severance packages.

A number of contracts also are being suspended or ended early, he said. Pebble had about 50 active contracts, he estimated.

Pebble won't provide specifics on how many people were being affected or the amount of money being cut, Heatwole said.

Pebble had announced $80 million in work to be done this year and is still evaluating how much will be done.

The mine developer has been a leading employer in the Bristol Bay region for the last decade, Heatwole said. About 150 Bristol Bay residents worked for the project directly or through contracts during the summer of 2012, and even more did so this summer, Heatwole said.

Anglo American had put $541 million into the project before announcing last month that it was abandoning it. The mine project is under intense scrutiny because of the potential for harming the world's best remaining run of wild salmon. Anglo American said it wanted to focus on lower-risk projects.

The Pebble Partnership is not abandoning the project, just stepping back to reassess, Heatwole said.

"This still remains an important project," he said.

The Pebble mine is a potential $300 billion deposit near the headquarters of the tributaries of the Kvichak and Nushagak rivers. It could be the biggest open pit mine in North America.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390.

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