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Sep 27 2020

News that is not so bad.

So, you remember Pebble Mine? The one that everyone in Alaska hated because it will ruin about a 3rd of their Salmon fishery which is only worth a few Billion a year? The one that got pushed through because of corrupt Republicans?

Why looky here-

In secret tapes, mine executives detail their sway over leaders from Juneau to the White House
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
September 23, 2020

A direct line to the White House, but routed through a third party to hide it from public view. Easy access to Alaska’s governor, as well as the state’s two U.S. senators. A successful push to unseat nine Republican state lawmakers who opposed their plan to build a massive gold and copper mine — the biggest in North America — near Bristol Bay in Alaska.

Those were some of the boasts made by two top executives of a company trying to build the Pebble Mine in videotapes secretly recorded by an environmental group and made public Monday. It was a rare glimpse into the private discussions surrounding the company’s heated campaign to win federal permits for the project, which environmentalists say will destroy a pristine part of Alaska and decimate its world-famous sockeye salmon fishery.

The conversations were secretly recorded over the past month and a half by the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency. Posing as potential investors in the mine, EIA investigators conducted Zoom calls in which the mine’s sponsors detailed how they sought to curry favor with elected politicians from Juneau to Washington, D.C.

The tapes feature separate conversations with two key men behind the project — Roland Thiessen, chief executive of the Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, and Tom Collier, chief executive of its U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership.

Within a matter of weeks, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could grant a permit for the mine. While the agency found in late July that the project would have “no measurable effect” on the area’s fish populations, last month it informed Pebble Limited Partnership that it had to do more to show how it would offset the damage caused by the operation.

But even as the executives jump through several regulatory hoops, they are focused on wooing Republican politicians. In the taped conversations, they detailed their plan to manage all the decision-makers.

Thiessen described both of the state’s Republican U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as politicians who might make noises about the project to appear sensitive to environmental concerns but ultimately won’t stand in their way. “It’s an age-old practice where when you have constituents, you have important people who support you on two sides of an issue, all right, you try to find a way to satisfy them both,” he said in the recording.

He noted that Murkowski declined to move a bill that would have barred the federal government from permitting the mine. Instead, she included language in a spending bill that raised some questions about Pebble Mine but did not hinder it. “She says things that don’t sound supportive of Pebble, but when it comes time to vote, when it comes time to do something, she never does anything to hurt Pebble, okay?” Thiessen said.

At a different point in the tapes, Collier said both senators misinterpreted the letter the Corps sent last month and are now embarrassed. “So right now, they’re just sort of sitting over in a corner and being quiet, okay?”

The senior senator from Alaska was not amused.

“Let me be clear: I did not misunderstand the Army Corps’ recent announcement,” she said in a statement. “I am not ‘embarrassed’ by my statement on it, and I will not be ‘quiet in the corner.’ I am dead set on a high bar for large-scale resource development in the Bristol Bay watershed. The reality of this situation is the Pebble project has not met that bar and a permit cannot be issued to it.”

Neither was Sullivan. “Any suggestion otherwise is either wishful thinking, a blatant mischaracterization, or a desperate attempt to secure funding for a mine that cannot move forward,” he said. “This incident demonstrates how far Mr. Collier, who has serious credibility problems of his own, is floundering in the face of this project’s overwhelming challenges.”

An unusual coalition of Alaska Natives, conservationists and some famous anglers who enjoy fishing in Bristol Bay — including the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., the vice president’s former chief of staff, Nick Ayers, and Fox News host Tucker Carlson — have opposed the plan out of concern that waste from the operation could pollute the waters of southwest Alaska.

Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corp., assailed the companies in a phone interview and accused them of hypocrisy.

“They’ll tell anyone what they want to hear based on whatever they think will move the needle for the Pebble Limited Partnership,” he said. “Now I think the public, at least those who have seen the tapes, they’re seeing behind the curtain now.”

In a statement Monday evening, Collier said he had not had time to review the tapes but that “there are some pretty questionable ethics at play” given that the individuals making the recordings disguised their identities.

A spokesman for Collier said he “regrets the way he conveyed their influence and importance” of the two senators.

Collier, who worked as chief of staff to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt during the Clinton administration, said that he registered as an independent in Alaska but was “a well-known Republican fundraiser” in the state. He describes how he helped lead a successful effort to defeat nine state GOP legislators last election because they worked with Democrats and did not support Pebble Mine.

“Now, having said that, it’s entirely possible that we may have [former vice president Joe] Biden as a president, and if we do, I’m gonna brush off my Democratic credentials and start using them a little more actively than I do,” he added.

Collier will get a roughly $4 million bonus if the mine receives a favorable Record of Decision from the Corps and another $8.4 million if the permit can withstand a legal challenge.

More stuff about how this is a very bad idea to begin with and open bragging about Republican corruption-

Thiessen, for his part, explained to EIA investigators how he and his colleagues have ready access to Trump’s chief of staff but use Dunleavy’s office as a conduit.

“I mean, we can talk to the chief of staff of the White House any time we want. You want to be careful with all this because it’s all recorded,” Thiessen said. “It’s not that they tape the call, it’s just that it’s recorded that ‘He had a call with Tom Collier, the CEO of Pebble Limited Partnership.’ You don’t want to be seen to be trying to exercise undue influence. It’s better for us if we want to push that envelope that Tom talks to the governor of the state of Alaska and the governor of the state of Alaska picks up the phone and calls the chief of staff to the White House, yes.”

Roland Thiessen is the CEO of Canadian-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, Tom Collins is just his U.S. Vice President and yes, they are both on tape.

So Saturday, the day after, yesterday, there was this-

Alaska mining executive resigns a day after being caught on tape boasting of his ties to GOP politicians
By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
September 23, 2020

Mining executive Tom Collier, who boasted in secretly taped conversations that he had leveraged his ties to Republican officials to advance a controversial project in Alaska, resigned Wednesday.

Collier, CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, offered his resignation a day after the group Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released recordings of Zoom calls in which he talked of currying favor with the White House and Alaska lawmakers to win federal approval for a massive gold and copper mine.

Collier and Ronald Thiessen, CEO of the Canadian parent company, Northern Dynasty Minerals, were recorded separately suggesting that GOP politicians would not block Pebble Mine even though some had raised concerns about its environmental impact.

Collier, who served as chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt under President Bill Clinton, stood to receive $12.4 million in bonuses if the federal government approved a key permit for the mine and it could be upheld in court. Speaking to EIA investigators, who were posing as possible investors in the project, he touted his effort to funnel money to Republican politicians in Alaska and defeat those who sided with Democrats against the mine.

“I’ve supported all the Republican candidates in the state,” said Collier, who is registered as an independent. “I meet with the two senators, the congressman, the governor on a regular basis and they welcome me as someone they know supports the Republican Party.”

“Now, having said that, it’s entirely possible that we may have [former vice president Joe] Biden as a president, and if we do, I’m gonna brush off my Democratic credentials and start using them a little more actively than I do,” he added.

Chris Wood, president of the conservation group Trout Unlimited, said in a phone interview that Collier’s resignation marked a blow for a project that does not deserve federal approval.

“Tom Collier is a fall guy for a project that is fundamentally flawed and has essentially been a flimflam operation from the very beginning,” Wood said. “From the beginning, it has been an exercise in obfuscation. They took more than a dozen years to get an application together, and then they lied about the scope and scale of the potential project — either to Congress or to investors. But no matter how you slice it, they lied.”

In the taped conversations, Thiessen and Collier suggested that while they were seeking a permit for a 20-year operation, it might expand and last for as long as 180 years. In Wednesday’s statement, Thiessen left open the possibility that they could apply for additional permits to extend the scope and duration of the mining operation.

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