Alaska’s Pebble Mine is in the news, as Donald Trump Junior urges his father to oppose it. That won’t happen, in my opinion, because the Pebble Mine should be opened in the interest of national security. For President Trump, our freedom from foreign suppliers is in the national security interest. Pebble should be opened, if for no other reason, for its rare earth minerals.
Pebble is one of only two massive deposits of a particular type of ore. The other deposit is in Indonesia, and is mined by Freeport-McMoran. These ores are valuable mainly for their copper and gold content. But Pebble has more than copper and gold, it has palladium and rhenium, rare earth minerals which are essential to high tech manufacturing.
Pebble can be safely developed, just as the Red Dog mine a few hundred miles north and west has been. Red Dog is the largest zinc mine in the world. It’s in the middle of the Alaska wilderness. It has been in full operation for 34 years, with no environmental harm. It’s on land owned by an Alaska Native Corporation, and the Natives of this region benefit handsomely from the profits of the mine. 420 people are employed there, with many of them Alaska Natives.
This should be the model for Pebble. The operator of Red Dog, Teck Alaska Inc., must operate Pebble just as Red Dog is operated. The local Native population must have a major financial stake in the development of the mine. Natives need to employed, whenever possible, in the construction and operation of Pebble. The highest environmental standards of any mine on earth should be imposed on the developer. This is a highly sensitive area, and must be completely protected from damage to its environment.
President Trump will support Pebble because it’s in the national security interest of the United States. But it will also be good for the Native people of Alaska, and the state as a whole.