By Associated Press - Friday, October 2, 2020

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Two Alaska legislative leaders have called on the state’s governor to stop assisting the development of a proposed copper and gold mine.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent, and Republican Rep. Louise Stutes wrote to Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy Tuesday about the Pebble Mine project.

The legislators said the administration should not provide state land for a mitigation plan that developers hope will lead to a federal permit for the proposed open-pit mine about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.

The mine would straddle salmon-producing headwaters of the Bristol Bay fishery.

The letter cites news accounts of Dunleavy’s past assistance to Pebble Limited Partnership and recordings of then-Pebble CEO Tom Collier by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a Washington, D.C.-based group.

Collier believed he and Ronald Thiessen, CEO of Pebble subsidiary Northern Dynasty, were speaking with potential investors in August and September.

Collier was recorded saying he would propose the preservation of hundreds of acres of state land to compensate for the miles of streams and wetlands the mine could harm.

Collier said he was a friend of Dunleavy and the plan was only possible thanks to the governor’s assistance.

“Just between us guys, I had a two-hour, one-on-one meeting with the governor when all of this came up about a month ago, to walk him through this, to get his commitment that they would be there,” Collier said. “And now we’re working with his Department of Natural Resources, and they are being very cooperative in working this through with us.”

Collier resigned last month after the release of the recordings.

Dunleavy’s office said Pebble executives “embellished” ties to the governor.

Mark Hamilton, Pebble executive vice president of public affairs, said during a presentation to the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce Wednesday that the company hopes to rebuild trust after the exchange he called “disgraceful.”

“Our former CEO was caught on tape talking about the project, elected officials and the United States Army Corps of Engineers in a way that was boastful, that was insensitive, and clearly embellished,” Hamilton said. “That’s not the way we do business, and that’s not the way you do business.”

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