A federal judge considering a court challenge by Pebble mine developers has granted Pebble’s request to force testimony by a former government scientist now believed to be living in Australia.

Pebble Ltd. Partnership asserted in court filings that Phil North fled the country to avoid answering allegations that he colluded with tribal groups and environmentalists to block the mine’s development. North was a lead scientist for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has proposed to use its powers under the Clean Water Act to block any mine of the scale proposed by Pebble developers in the Bristol Bay watershed.

While Pebble accused North of fleeing, he told The Redoubt Reporter in 2013 that he was preparing to sail around the world with his family for two years after retiring from the EPA.

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