Multi national mining conglomerates have never been afraid to do business with dictators and rogue nations when it comes to profits. The extractive resource industry not only has a track record of supporting oppressive regimes, it also has a long track record of empty promises when it comes to protecting the environment and indigenous cultures. The maze of of partnerships that make up the group developing the Pebble Project not only illustrates the nature of international mining, it also demonstrates their willingness to partner with rogue nations.
The Pebble Limited Partnership is 50% owned by a wholly owned U.S.-based subsidiary of London-based Anglo American and 50% owned by The Northern Dynasty Partnership, which is a wholly owned Canadian-based subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited. Announced in July, 2007 the partnership agreement obligates Anglo American to spend $1.425 billion towards study, permitting, and construction of the project in order to retain its 50% interest. The partnership is managed by the Pebble Mines Corporation, a 50% Northern Dynasty:50% Anglo American owned corporation based in Alaska.
Important stockholders in Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited include Kennecott (19.8%) which is a wholly owned affiliate of Rio Tinto, management (13%), and Mitsubishi (9.1%). One non-executive member of the Northern Dynasty board is a Rio Tinto representative. The corporate officers and executive board members of Northern Dynasty Minerals Limited are all, also, executive board members and corporate officers of Hunter Dickinson Corporation. Northern Dynasty is one of ten public mining companies driven by Hunter Dickinson, a Vancouver-based Canadian corporation.
So here is the part where Pebble meets rogue nation. Rio Tinto, which owns just shy of a 20% stake in Pebble Partnerships Northern Dynasty through their subsidiary Kennecott, also holds a 65% stake in Rossing Uranium in Namimbia. Its uranium is sold to power utilities in Central Europe, North America and South-East Asia including China. Here's the good part, one of Rio's partners in that investment? Iranian Foreign Investment, who hold a 15% stake in Rossing Uranium. According to their website the Iran Foreign Investment Company (IFIC) is a Private Joint Stock company with a mission to manage and expand Iranian holdings abroad.
Despite Iran being an international pariah and the current international sanctions, Rio Tinto defends the partnership. They argue the IFIC has held their 15 percent stake in the Namibia mine since 1975, before the Islamic takeover; that Iran is banned access to nuclear technology at the mine and to its uranium; and that its dividends have been put into a trust. That argument did not convince House Democrats who attempted to block legislation in 2011 that benefited Rio Tinto due to their partnership with Iran. That legislation allowed a land swap between Rio Tinto and the U.S. government, that allows the company to set up mining operations and extract copper discovered in Arizona.
So the next time some necon Republican asshats question the integrity of the EPA or the broad coalition of groups opposing the mine, ask them why one of Pebble's partners is still in the uranium business with Iran. You also might point out that the Rossing uranium mine is also having issues with leakage below their tailings dam.