As soon as Kraft changes into cowboy boots and boots up, we are back in the air, swinging over the lake, and after only 90 seconds we land on the inhabitants of Pebble called Obozor, a hill 1,700 feet high and the highest spot on the well-known deposit.
We emerge from the helicopter into a space so vast that any sense of scale is lost: an open, slowly moving country in all directions, broken only by the fingerprints of standing water, leaks and streams that look like a pale cursive font on amber and crimson grass. Pebble Partnership owns 414 sq. M. Miles of mining in the region are all in the state of Alaska, and we are standing where its huge hole may soon be.
It is expected that each year the site will produce 318 million pounds of copper, 23,000 pounds of gold and 100,000 pounds of silver. “We are coming and dealing with the easiest deposit to get,” says Collier, pointing to our feet and the ground below ground. "We can mine this by moving very little material, with a very small footprint."
As we speak, Collier and Kraft are polite, perhaps a little awkward. But later, in subsequent interviews, when they turn to opposing arguments, one word will appear again and again: Bullshit. Not salmon, Not gold, Bullshit. Bullshit! BULLSHIT!
Not surprisingly, Kraft, as a fishing guide and long-time resident of the Bristol Bay, was at the center of this argument. Collier, on the other hand, took the extremely unlikely path to his role as head of the Pebble Partnership and to be here this morning in September, having this debate.
Born in Mississippi, he went to high school in Memphis and then, for an undergrad, to the University of Virginia, where he served as president of the student community. On his left hand, he still wears a silver ring adorned with a black letter Z, for Society Z – “a stupid club college,” he says, but this is the oldest secret society of UVA; It is rumored that several high-ranking officials were members.