The Pebble mine is looking increasingly on the rocks.
Rio Tinto has decided to divest its 19.1 percent shareholding of Northern Dynasty, the project’s current majority owner, in a move it explicitly tied to the controversy over the would-be gold and copper mine, which would be constructed in Alaska’s Bristol Bay.
Rio Tinto’s shares will be divided equally among two local charities: the Alaska Community Foundation, which funds statewide educational and vocational training, and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation, which supports educational and cultural programs in southwest Alaska.
Rio Tinto’s announcement follows onetime partner Anglo American’s decision to withdraw from the project in September, and an Environmental Protection Agency assessment that has put the project on hold.
“By giving our shares to two respected Alaskan charities, we are ensuring that Alaskans will have a say in Pebble’s future development,” said Rio Tinto copper chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques in a statement.
Bonnie Gestring, spokeswoman for environmental group Earthworks, hailed the decision in a statement.
“There is currently no major funder backing the Pebble mine proposal,” she said. “Perhaps more importantly, there is now no mining company behind Pebble that has actually mined anything. Rio Tinto’s divestment from Pebble may not be the final nail in the coffin, but it’s surely one of the last.”