A retired government scientist who has been described as elusive and secretive by those backing the proposed Pebble mine is now speaking up in force about why he so opposes the project and what he did to block it.
Pebble Limited Partnership considers Phil North the key agent in what it calls an improper, back-channel scheme of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to restrict its proposed open-pit gold and copper mine at the headwaters of salmon-rich Bristol Bay.
The mine developer is suing EPA to erase years of study that the agency is using to prevent a giant mine in the watershed producing the world’s biggest runs of sockeye salmon. North’s role and life are under scrutiny, including his use of a personal email account and his exit from the United States.
North, a retired EPA ecologist and the agency’s point person for Bristol Bay during the years at issue, says he did nothing wrong, was never in hiding and doesn’t regret his work helping tribes with a petition urging EPA to veto the mine.
“Once the whole story is part of the dialogue, most of what they are saying goes away,” North says of Pebble.