Alaska lawmakers, Native group join dispute over Pebble mine

    Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Governor's Office).

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska lawmakers and a Native corporation have joined the dispute over a Canadian company's potential investment in a large copper and gold mining project.

    Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy wrote a July letter supporting investment in the Pebble Mine by Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. of Vancouver, Canada, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

    Dunleavy's letter came after groups opposed to Pebble wrote to Wheaton President Randy Smallwood discouraging its involvement.

    Pebble opponents argue the project threatens the Bristol Bay salmon fishery in southwest Alaska. Potential developer Pebble Limited Partnership maintains it can operate the mine safely without threatening the fishery.

    A group of 20 state lawmakers sent a letter Monday telling Smallwood that Dunleavy had downplayed public opposition. The letter included the signatures of 16 Democrats, two Republicans, and two independents.

    The governor's July 30 letter to Smallwood "misrepresents the ease with which the state might permit the proposed Pebble Mine, and the reception it is likely to receive from those living in the region," the lawmakers wrote.

    Bristol Bay Native Corporation, which is based in the region where the mine would be built, sent Smallwood a similar letter Aug. 29.

    "There is strong opposition to the project within Bristol Bay and across Alaska," wrote corporation President Jason Metrokin.

    Dunleavy has not stated a position on Pebble but said the state would stand by Wheaton's potential investment to help Pebble complete the permitting phase.

    "Governor Dunleavy and a large number of Alaskans believe projects should be allowed to follow a fair and transparent permitting process," his office said in a statement Monday.

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