National Jeweler Network

Public Policy & Issues

BJ’s signs Pebble pledge, mine remains in limbo

By Michelle Graff

July 03, 2014

Washington--BJ’s Wholesale Club has become the latest seller of fine jewelry to agree to boycott gold from the proposed Pebble mine in Alaska, if the project ever gets underway. 

Mining companies Anglo American and Rio Tinto once were involved in the project but both since have pulled out, leaving Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. to find new partners to develop Pebble, which would be North America’s largest open-pit copper and gold mine. 

RELATED CONTENT: Rio Tinto pulls out of Pebble mine project

Northern Dynasty did not respond to request for comment Wednesday on the current state of the project but, as of July 2, its website lists it as 100 percent owner of the Pebble Limited Partnership.  

In addition, the Pebble Limited Partnership has filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Alaska seeking to halt the Environmental Protection Agency’s February invocation of its authority under the Clean Water Act to conduct an assessment of how the project will impact the Bristol Bay watershed. While the EPA review is taking place, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot grant any permits for construction on Pebble, meaning the project cannot move forward.

RELATED CONTENT: Pebble mine plans on hold after EPA action

The Pebble Limited Partnership contends that the action exceeds the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act, or CWA. 

“While Congress provided EPA a legitimate and important role in assessing CWA 404 permits, it is clear that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency for such permits and that the State of Alaska also has a central regulatory role to play,” said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. “EPA’s unilateral process to pre-judge Pebble before a project is proposed or permits are sought not only undermines the legitimate authority of the (Corps) and the state, it would also establish a damaging precedent that will have significant long-term effects on business investment in Alaska and throughout the United States.”

While regulatory battles about the mine continue, Washington-based environmental group Earthworks announced Wednesday that BJ’s Wholesale Club has signed the No Dirty Gold campaign’s “Golden Rules” as well as the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge, which is a vow to never source gold from the Pebble mine if it is built.

Opponents of the mine are concerned about the environmental impact it will have on the Bristol Bay watershed, which is home to the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery and is a source of jobs, and food, for many in the area. 

The Golden Rules is a set of social, human rights and environmental criteria designed to improve metal mining processes worldwide. Tiffany & Co. and Helzberg Diamonds are among the fine jewelry-carrying retailers who have signed on to both the Golden Rules and the Bristol Bay Protection Pledge. 

Jersey City, N.J.-based BJ’s Wholesale Club, which has 202 locations in 15 states throughout the eastern U.S. and sells fine jewelry, said it is the first independent wholesale club company to commit to responsible metals sourcing.