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BBNC response to Dunleavy letter stresses state's role in Pebble

Tyler Thompson

The regional corporation weighed in Aug. 31 on the debate around the governor's letter to a potential investor in the proposed project, saying it undermined the regulatory process.

The Bristol Bay Native Corporation responded at the end of last month to a recent letter sent by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to Wheaton Precious Metals Corporation, a potential investor with the proposed Pebble Mine.

In the letter, Dunleavy wrote that “Alaska is open for business,” and that “the state is encouraged and supportive of your decision to invest in Alaska.” 

Dan Cheyette is the vice president for Lands and Natural Resources at for BBNC. He was surprised by the governor’s letter.

“I think it’s inappropriate for a governor of a state, who is head of the executive branch and responsible for the decisions of the regulatory agencies under his authorities, to be reaching out to a potential investor in a project that hasn’t gone through any regulatory review. And basically, being a cheerleader for the project," said Cheyette, referring to the state’s regulatory process, which he holds is being undermined by the letter. 

But Pebble Partnership spokesperson Mike Heatwole says Dunleavy’s letter it is a positive move for generating business in the state.


“I do think the governor clearly supports greater investment in the state. The Pebble Project is on state land and as such is a state asset that needs to be fully explored,” Heatwole said. 

BBNC has opposed the mine for the last decade. In a poll of around 9,000 shareholders this year, the corporation found that three-quarters of the participants, 76%, opposes the proposed Pebble mine, and 85% are worried about the potential risks it could have on salmon.

A study by consulting firm Wink Research & Consulting shows that Bristol Bay’s fishery supports over 5,000 jobs and is responsible for over $500 million in economic output statewide. Nationwide, it generates $1.2 billion and provides almost 15,000 jobs. Wink Research & Consulting is headed by Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association.

KDLG reached out to Dunleavy’s administration via phone and email for comment, but did not receive a response by press time.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200