Pebble mine project is subject of federal grand jury investigation

Northern Dynasty president says he, the Pebble Partnership and former PLP CEO Tom Collier will cooperate with investigators

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., the Pebble Limited Partnership and its former chief executive officer have been subpoenaed to provide documents for a grand jury investigation apparently involving conversations about a proposed mine project in Southwest Alaska.

Ron Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, released a statement on Friday, Feb. 5, acknowledging that they have been served with subpoenas by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska. He said the grand jury investigation apparently involved previously disclosed recordings of private conversations regarding the Pebble project.

Those video recordings, now known as the “Pebble Tapes,” were released online last September by the Environment Investigation Agency, a nonprofit entity whose investigators posed as potential investors in the mine and spoke with Thiessen and chief executive officer Tom Collier, who resigned after the tapes went virial on the internet.

Thiessen said that the company, the PLP, a wholly owned subsidiary, and Collier intend to cooperate with the investigation. Thiessen said that the company is not aware of any charges filed against any entity or individual in this matter. He said that Northern Dynasty would provide updates on the investigation in its periodic and interim filings and releases as necessary and appropriate.

The recorded conversations at the center of the controversy remain online. In the recordings, Thiessen and Collier describe long-term plans for the mining venture, including eventual expansion into a much larger project.

The Obama administration in 2014 moved to block development of the mine under the Clean Water Act after scientific testimony showed it would result in a complete loss of fish habitat in some areas of Bristol Bay. Then, in August 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency, now under the Trump administration, lifted its opposition to the mine after President Donald Trump met with Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a supporter of the project, aboard Air Force One in Anchorage on June 26. The plane had stopped in Anchorage when Trump was on his way to Japan for the G20 summit.

Testimony provided by the PLP in connection with an application for a Clean Water Act, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has now declined to approve, said the company had no plans for a larger project than a small mine with an 80-year lifetime. In the taped conversations, the two men acknowledged plans for expansion into mining project that would last 180-200 years, as well as their relationship with state and federal officials and appointees within the state and federal governments, including Alaska’s congressional delegation.