Path Cleared for Pebble Project Permitting

Northern Dynasty Minerals and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a settlement agreement that will allow normal course permitting to proceed for the controversial Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project in southwest Alaska. The operating company for the project, Pebble Ltd. Partnership (PLP), is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northern Dynasty. The current agreement settled a legal dispute that had been ongoing since 2014, when EPA action effectively blocked further work on the permitting process.

Pebble is one of the world’s largest undeveloped mining projects. Its current resource estimate includes 6.44 billion metric tons (mt) in measured and indicated resources, containing 57 billion pounds (lb) of copper, 70 million ounces (oz) of gold, 3.4 billion lb of molybdenum, and 344 million oz of silver; and 4.46 billion mt in inferred resources, containing 24.5 billion lb of copper, 37 million oz of gold, 2.2 billion lb of molybdenum, and 170 million oz of silver. Quantities of palladium and rhenium also occur in the deposit.

“From the outset of this unfortunate saga, we’ve asked for nothing more than fairness and due process under the law — the right to propose a development plan for Pebble and have it assessed against the robust environmental regulations and rigorous permitting requirements enforced in Alaska and the United States,” said Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ron Thiessen. “Today’s settlement gives us precisely that, the same treatment every developer and investor in a stable, first-world country should expect.

“The Pebble Partnership will advance a progressive mine plan, including mitigation, to be assessed by objective, expert regulators at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a raft of other federal and state agencies, including the EPA.”

Thiessen also said PLP has been advancing planning for a smaller project design at Pebble than previously considered that incorporates significant environmental safeguards.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “We are committed to due process and the rule of law and regulations that are ‘regular.’ We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides. The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer the EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation. We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds.”

Opposition to the Pebble project has centered on its potential impact on the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and the jobs that the fishery supports.

As featured in Womp 2017 Vol 06 -