Rpt-Voters in Alaska pass anti-Pebble ballot initiative

Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:20am GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Oct 18 (Reuters) - - Voters in a sparsely populated district of rural Alaska have narrowly passed a ballot initiative that could block development of the controversial Pebble Mine, local officials said late Monday.

Voters in the Lake and Peninsula Borough of southwestern Alaska passed the ordinance by a 280-246 vote, according to preliminary election results released by the borough clerk.

The election was Oct. 4, but all local elections in the borough are conducted by mail ballot, and officials had to wait for mail delivery from outlying villages.

The "Save Our Salmon" initiative would amend borough development code to automatically deny local permits to any large-scale resource extraction project that would damage or degrade salmon habitat.

The ordinance was aimed at the Pebble project, a proposed open-pit copper and gold mine that would be among the largest in the world. The Pebble Ltd. Partnership, which is pursuing the mine, is jointly owned by Anglo American and a Canadian junior mining company, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.

The mine has been a contentious issue in Alaska.

Critics say it would spoil important habitat upstream from Bristol Bay, site of the largest sockeye salmon runs in the world. The area where the mine would be built is close to national parks and unspoiled wildlife habitat, and the mine is opposed by commercial fishermen, sport fishermen, Native subsistence fishermen and environmentalists.

But mine supporters say the project is needed to bring jobs and economic development to a struggling region of the state. Supporters say residents in the region should use the mine to diversify an economy that is too dependent on salmon fishing.   Continued...

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