By Lisa Demer
Pebble's buried treasure is immense, an estimated 80 billion pounds of copper and more than 100 million ounces of gold, though the developers stress no decisions have been made on how much--if any--to extract. The claim area spans 150 square miles. Pebble could become North America's largest open pit mine.
Some welcome the project as a source of sorely needed jobs in the cash-poor Bristol Bay region. But the deposit also straddles the headwaters of streams that feed rich runs of red salmon, king salmon and rainbow trout.
So where supporters see the promise of jobs, revitalized communities and glittering gold, opponents see a risk of destroyed habitat and the ruin of commercial and sport fisheries pursued by Alaskans for generations.
Now the two sides find themselves locked in an arms-race-style media war that, five years in, shows no sign of letting up.
The Pebble Lady, say opponents.
Her name is Martina Arce, though that never is said in the ads. She's paid to be featured in the ads and says she has an open mind on Pebble--the same thing some prominent officials in the region say.
The anti-Pebble group pounced.
"Bristol Bay doesn't believe the Pebble Lady," the announcer says in ads that recently began to air. "Do you?"
Iliamna woman is the 'face of Pebble'
By Lisa Demer
She's featured in a series of ads for the giant Pebble copper and gold prospect. She never expected it, but she's now the face of Pebble. Or as Pebble foes like to call her, the Pebble Lady.
"Everybody is telling me there are blogs about me and this and that," Arce said. Much of it is negative, she said. Since Pebble sparks such strong sentiments, she anticipated some heat but not this much.
"You know you are not going to be on the most popular side," she said.
She grew up in Iliamna and went to school in Newhalen until she was 15 or so. Her mother is Athabascan, Aleut and Irish; her father is Mexican.
Below: A Pebble Lady ad that doesn't mention the environmental costs.