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Poll: 81 percent of Bristol Bay shareholders oppose Pebble

Alex DeMarban

Opposition to Pebble Mine continues to grow among Alaska Native shareholders enrolled with Bristol Bay Native Corp., the company announced in a written statement Tuesdays.

 The corporation has voted to oppose the Pebble Mine copper, gold and molybdenum prospect located in the Bristol Bay watershed, an important stance because the firm serves many of the region's residents.

Eighty-one percent of the shareholders surveyed now oppose the mine, a 12 percent increase from the last survey done four years ago, the company said.   

As a regional Native corporation created by Congress in the early 1970s, a core Bristol Bay mission is economic development for its 9,000 shareholders and their descendents.

 Only a tentative development plan exists for Pebble. The companies involved in the Pebble Partnership -- Anglo American of the United Kingdom and Northern Dynasty Minerals of Canada -- have not yet moved to the permitting stage.

But the Native corporation believes the risk of poisoning Bristol Bay's mighty sockeye salmon fishery outweighs the local jobs a large-scale development could create.

“BBNC supports responsible resource development, but opposes the Pebble project due to the risks it poses to our fisheries and our Native way of life,” Jason Metrokin, Bristol Bay chief executive, said in a company press release. “We believe there are other projects that could be developed in our region that would provide jobs and other economic benefits that would not present unacceptable environmental risks to our people and our land.”

Most shareholders surveyed support developing other resources within the Bristol Bay region, the release said.

"These include renewable resources like tidal or wind (88 percent), tourism and wildlife viewing (86 percent), sale of rock, sand and gravel (80 percent), sport fishing and hunting (78 percent), and on-shore oil and gas (57 percent)," the company said.

Bristol Bay hired Dittman Research and Communications, which surveyed 2,286 shareholders over two months this fall. A separate poll of 802 Alaskan voters conducted by Strategies 360 Polling and Market Research found that 54 percent of respondents held negative opinions of the proposed mine. Thirty-two percent held positive opinions, the release said.