Billionaire Rues Northern Dynasty Sale Over Clinton Controversy

  • Canadian mogul Frank Giustra sold off stake in mine explorer
  • Calls company’s Alaska Pebble deposit a "really great bet"

Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra wishes he still owned shares in Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., the explorer with rights to one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits.

Giustra sold off his interests in Northern Dynasty last year amid criticism that if Hillary Clinton won the U.S. election, he could use his close personal ties with her husband, Bill, to ease U.S. regulatory roadblocks facing the company.

"Absolutely, I’d still be holding it" if there hadn’t been a public controversy, Giustra told Bloomberg News in an interview at a Vancouver mining conference on Sunday. The company’s one and only exploration project in Alaska -- the Pebble deposit -- "is a really great bet," said Giustra, who has interests in the mining, film and food industries.

Northern Dynasty shares have more than tripled since the Nov. 8 U.S. election as investors speculate that President Donald Trump’s administration will allow the explorer’s long-stalled Pebble project in Alaska to move ahead. The Vancouver-based company drummed up C$43 million ($32.3 million) in a secondary share offering to investors this month eager for a stake in a resource it estimates at more than 6 billion tons of ore.

"Pebble is the largest undeveloped deposit on the planet," Giustra said in a speech at the conference. "I invested a lot of money. Unfortunately for me, it got all caught up in U.S. politics with my relationship with the Clintons."

Thiessen Approach

Giustra said he invested in the company after he was approached by Northern Dynasty Chief Executive Officer Ronald Thiessen for funding. In late 2015, Northern Dynasty acquired Giustra’s cash-rich Cannon Point Resources Ltd. in a deal that awarded 12.9 million common shares to Cannon Point’s shareholders, according to a filing last July.

Giustra sold his stake "because I just don’t want anyone even thinking that I’m in this because of my political connections," he said. "I left a lot of money on the table. It was very sad. It sucks to be me."

In 2014, the EPA moved to impose restrictions on Pebble, blocking it from applying for a permit, citing "potentially destructive impacts" to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. Trump’s pick to head the regulator, Scott Pruitt, is a self-described opponent of the “EPA’s activist agenda” and has called for “regulatory rollback” at the agency. A Northern Dynasty investor presentation this month -- touting “a return to normal permitting” -- anticipates a resolution with the EPA, finding a new partner, and advancing the project into the permitting process this year.

"If there’s only one thing good about a Trump presidency, it’s that it’ll be a lot easier in the resource industry in the United States to get things done," Giustra said Sunday. "That’s about the only good thing."

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.