The mining conglomerate Rio Tinto announced this morning it is divesting its stake in Northern Dynasty, the owner of the proposed Pebble Mine. Rio said in December it might sell, but in a surprise move, the company says it is donating its 19 percent share to two charities, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation.
Rio CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a statement the donation would ensure Alaskans will have a say in Pebble’s development.
The charities haven’t yet announced what they will do with their minority shares in the project.
The copper and gold mine has drawn widespread opposition, and an EPA study recently found it would pose “Irreversible harm” to the region’s rich salmon runs. Bristol Bay Native Corp has been one of the leading groups opposing the mine.
Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen said in a written statement he wants to meet with the two nonprofits to determine how their new ownership interest in the Pebble Project can make “the greatest possible contribution to the people and communities they serve.”
The donated shared were worth nearly $25 million in December but Northern Dynasty’s share price plunged last month when the EPA announced its assessment of Pebble, which is the company’s only major asset, and the price fell again today.