Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals issued a statement on Friday, Feb. 5, acknowledging that it is cooperating with a federal grand jury investigation after its subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership and former CEO Tom Collier received subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Alaska. The subpoenas request documents as part of an investigation “apparently involving previously disclosed recordings of private conversations regarding the Pebble Project,” the company said in its release.

The documents sought are likely related to the content of the Pebble Tapes and the resulting fallout of the recorded video calls in which Collier made statements that reportedly contradicted his own Congressional testimony. In the videos, released in September, Collier was speaking to environmentalists posing as potential Pebble Mine investors.

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Collier resigned two days after the release of the tapes, and Northern Dynasty issued a press release stating that “Collier’s comments embellished both his and the Pebble Partnership’s relationships with elected officials and federal representatives in Alaska.”

Later that month, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) called for a Justice Department investigation of the testimony and documents submitted by Collier and other executives.

The Trump administration took the region and the mine’s backers on a roller coaster ride, first removing Obama-era EPA protections and clearing a path for the mine to receive an Army Corps permit — considered the biggest hurdle to the mine’s development.

After years of indicating support for the mine and its investors, the administration later seemed swayed to protect the region at the behest of Donald Trump Jr. and recreational fishing interests fearing a loss of pristine habitat.

Meanwhile, Politico’s E&E News reports that emails obtained via Freedom of Information Act request appear to reveal the Trump administration was quietly working to withdraw EPA’s protections for many months before the agency made those plans public.  The veto was removed a month after the public announcement.

The news that the Trump administration secretly worked with industry representatives to remove protections for Bristol Bay for nearly a year prior to publicly announcing its intentions is appalling, but unsurprising,” said Lindsay Layland, deputy director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “We have long known that the former president and his administration disregarded Bristol Bay Tribes and leaders before making a final decision on EPA protections. This is just one of countless examples of how the federal government violated its trust responsibilities to Bristol Bay's sovereign Native nations. There is only one way to make this right: the EPA must use its Clean Water Act authority to ensure that mines like Pebble are no longer a threat to Bristol Bay, and resume work on permanent protections for our watershed.”

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 15 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute's Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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