Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, has announced a budget of $107 million to ready the Pebble Mine project for permitting in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act later this year.
The company has said they are finalizing a proposed design to meet and exceed environmental regulations and permitting requirements on both the state and federal levels. Northern Dynasty is partnered in the multi-million dollar mine prospect with London-based Anglo American plc.
John Shively, chief executive officer of the Pebble Partnership, said in the coming months there will be ongoing environmental studies on groundwater hydrology, water quality and fish and marine resources and more.
The mine site lies at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. A number of individuals, organizations and businesses engaged in the Bristol Bay salmon fisheries, including biologists, are concerned that the mine could adversely affect the health of the fisheries and their habitat. They are awaiting the draft report expected soon from the US Environmental Protection Agency on its scientific research into the watershed, which could allow the agency to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to block a required federal dredge-and-fill discharge permit for the proposed mine.
Former Alaska legislative leader Rick Halford – now a consultant to Nunamta Alukestai (Caretakers of the Land) and Trout Unlimited – said $107 million is not inconsistent with the spending packages of the Pebble Partnership.
“Whenever Northern Dynasty announces anything on Pebble, you don’t know if they are mining in the field or in the stock market,” Halford said. “They have said numerous times that they are for sale and don’t plan to be one of the major operators. I think it is their intention to sell out before the mine ever goes into production.”
Halford said the EPA has an opportunity here to prevent disposal of large amounts of toxic waste into salmon streams or for perpetual remediation. “The EPA has done that in other places far less valuable than Bristol Bay,” said Halford, who has a home in Bristol Bay as well as one near Anchorage. “The EPA has an opportunity to restate the existing interpretation of the Clean Water Act to insure that the protections already provided in other places will apply in Alaska.”