I was managing environmental affairs at Cominco (now Teck) when I discovered Cominco owned Pebble. I was informed, upon inquiry, that Pebble was at best marginally economic because of low grade and other factors, and physically challenging because of water management. A no-go, so forget about it. Later, in 2002, I learned a shell company called Northern Dynasty (ND) had acquired Pebble so I checked out their parent company, Hunter Dickinson, a Vancouver “junior” mining company which was, according to their web page, not in the business of planning or building mines. Rather, they were in the business of discovering ore bodies and bringing them along to the “permitting stage” before selling them, none of which had ever resulted in a producing mine. This is a business model called “pump and dump” for which the Vancouver stock scene is infamous and once named by Forbes as the “scam capital of the world.” Shortly after acquisition of Pebble, Northern Dynasty “discovers” a huge copper/gold mine that Cominco had missed, notwithstanding that Cominco was the most experienced northern miner in the world. Classic pump and dump. I forgot it again.
Pebble got my renewed attention when Anglo American bought in soon followed by Mitsubishi and Rio Tinto. They formed the Pebble Limited Partnership and began furiously blowing Anglo’s money. Maybe Cominco was wrong, I thought.
According to ND and PLP, Pebble is the world’s biggest gold/copper mine ever. Although size and scope fluctuate depending on whose promotion you are reading, still, it’s big. Commodity prices are high and the Chinese market is a short hop away. The Parnell Administration and the Department of Natural Resources are all for it and the regulatory process, contrary to industry claims, is a slam dunk. All this not withstanding, Mitsubishi backed out, then Anglo bailed (after spending $500+ million and forfeiting another $300 million), then Rio walked. Consider also that Cominco sold Pebble without retaining back-in rights and ND has been trying to sell their position in Pebble at least since 2011.
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