House Democrats want the Justice Department to investigate allegations the former head of a group pushing a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska lied to Congress about the size and scope of the project.
A report released Friday concluded Tom Collier, the CEO for the Pebble Limited Partnership from 2014 to 2020, misled lawmakers when he told them during a 2019 hearing that the group had “no current plans” to expand the size of the project or extend its 20-year duration.
His assertion was at odds with internal emails and other documents the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee majority obtained indicating company executives touted a larger, longer project to investors.
Friday’s report is the latest development in a 15-year debate over the proposed project near Bristol Bay in southern Alaska that has drawn national attention. The area is home to the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery, and many environmentalists and indigenous groups have opposed the prospect of the mineral mine near precious natural resources.
Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. owns the Pebble partnership.
“We are forwarding the evidence of Tom Collier’s false statements to Congress to the Attorney General’s office for further review,” Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement.
Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), who leads the panel’s Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee, said that Pebble executives misled Congress because they were trying to avoid more robust environmental review processes to obtain federal permits. “This conduct is shameful and likely criminal,” she said in a statement.
The Pebble Limited Partnership did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.
Collier resigned in 2020 after recorded conversations of him and Ron Thiessen, Northern Dynasty’s president and CEO, speaking with environmentalists posing as investors leaked. The statements the two men made in those conversations contradicted public remarks about the scope and length of the project and included comments about their alleged ability to manipulate politicians.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has jurisdiction over the project, and the Environmental Protection Agency and US Army Corps of Engineers are involved in federal permitting for it. The report also recommended bolstering the federal permitting review process for such projects as well as exploring legislation to further protect the Bristol Bay watershed.
The EPA earlier this year indicated it could use its authority to veto the project due to Clean Water Act concerns and will issue a recommendation on Pebble Mine in December.
(By Kellie Lunney)