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Rio Tinto CEO: No Interest In Pebble Project As An Open Pit Mine

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) has no interest in seeing the Alaskan copper and gold Pebble project developed as an open pit mine given the concerns about its environmental impact, although it thinks it would be worth exploring the project as an underground mine. "I'm interested in looking at it from an underground perspective; I have no interest in looking at it from an overground perspective," Rio Tinto's CEO Tom Albanese told his shareholders at the company's annual general meeting here. "An open pit mine is not the way to my opinion," he added. The Pebble project, located in southwestern Alaska, is one of the world's largest undeveloped gold and copper deposits and has faced protests from activists who allege it could harm an important spawning habitat for wild sockeye salmon, as well as damage communities around Bristol Bay that depend on fishing. Rio Tinto owns an indirect stake in the project through a 19.16% stake in Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which owns the project jointly and in equal measure with U.K.-listed Anglo American PLC (AAL.LN). The project could produce annually as much as 350,000 metric tons of copper, 12,000 tons of molybdenum, and 600,000 ounces of gold. A pre-feasibility study for the project is expected to be completed in 2012. -By Alex MacDonald, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0)20 7842 9328;

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