Alaskans Head To London To Confront Anglo American

Bristol Bay leaders to attend London premiere of Red Gold documentary; meet with UK press, fly-fishing celebrities, and jewelry retailers

A delegation of Alaska Native leaders from Bristol Bay will fly to London next week to confront Anglo American executives and shareholders face-to-face with their concerns about the company’s massive Pebble mine project in southwest Alaska. The Alaskans say the leadership of the London-based company, one of the world’s largest mining conglomerates, has so far failed to grasp the depth and breadth of opposition to Pebble, which, if built, would be the largest open-pit copper and gold mine in North America and would sit at the headwaters of the world’s most-productive salmon-spawning rivers.

“This land of bounty is our home. It has provided for our families, our culture and our traditional way of life for tens of thousands of years,” said Lydia Olympic, a delegation member and past president of the Igiugig Village Tribal Council. “We need our lands and waters to stay pristine to continue living healthy lifestyles. We are the ones who will live with pollution and toxic mine waste long after Anglo American has left,” she said.

The delegation, which also includes Thomas Tilden, Chief of the Curyung Tribal Council and Bobby Andrew, board member of Nunamta Aulukestai, will participate as shareholders in Anglo American’s annual meeting on April 15, 2009. The group plans to raise important questions about the mine’s viability, given the ardent opposition and the environmental, engineering, and legal challenges it faces.

The Alaskans have also formally requested a personal meeting with Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll. And while street protests are not on their itinerary, the Alaskans fully intend to speak their minds.

“Traveling thousands of miles to London shows how strongly we feel about protecting our salmon, our families, and our way of life,” said Bobby Andrew, spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of our Land), a group of eight Alaska Native village corporations opposing Pebble. “The people of London, and the entire world, need to know that Anglo American’s Pebble mine would ruin the greatest wild salmon fishery left on Earth and the cultures that depend on it,” he said.

The delegation will have some fun in London, too.

Prior to the shareholders meeting, the Alaskans will attend the City premiere of the award-winning documentary “Red Gold,” which tells the story of the people of Bristol Bay who depend on salmon and how Pebble could change their destinies.

English fly-fishing celebrities Charles Jardine, author and angler, and Peter Cockwill, owner of Albury Game Angling, will join the Alaskans at the April 14th screening at The Hub, followed by a reception featuring wild sockeye salmon from Bristol Bay, sponsored by SeaWeb and numerous UK and Alaska commercial and sport-fishing businesses.

The trip follows on the heels of a visit to Alaska in late March by Sir Mark Moody Stuart, president of Anglo American’s board of directors.. The British knight was greeted in Dillingham by the youth group Rebels Against Pebble and protestors waving “No Pebble Mine” and “Stop Cultural Genocide” signs. Sir Mark, joined by John Shively, the Pebble Limited Partnership’s executive director, held an open forum on the Bristol Bay campus of the University of Alaska, where they got an earful from local residents. The two men also met with concerned Alaskans in Anchorage.

Residents who wanted straight answers from Anglo American were disappointed.

"The heartburn for me is, every question we asked them in this meeting, the answer was, 'We'll get back to you,' " Frank Woods, a Dillingham gillnet fisherman, told the Anchorage Daily News after the meeting.

The Alaska Native leaders are not holding their breaths.

“How can we trust a company that won’t give us straight answers?” asked Tilden. “We’re going to London to tell the truth about how Pebble mine would forever alter Bristol Bay, and the places we call home.”

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