Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bill Would Require Legislative Approval for Large-scale Mines

A bill back for a second round before the Alaska lawmakers would require legislative approval for a large-scale metallic sulfide mine operation within the watershed of the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

Such authorization would take the form of a duly enacted law finding that the proposed large-scale mining operation would not constitute danger to the fisheries within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve.

The focus of the bill, while not mentioned by name, is the proposed Pebble copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed.

Hunter Dickenson Inc., a diversified global mining group based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has spent millions of dollars on the project to date, in hope of getting the mine permitted and into the operational phase. HDI, whose Alaska subsidiary is the Pebble Limited Partnership, in Anchorage, contends that the mine can operate in harmony with the watershed that is home to the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. Thousands affiliated with the seafood industry, environmental entities and the recreational fishing and hunting industries disagree, contending that the mine poses great risk to salmon habitat.

HDI and its subsidiary, Northern Dynasty Minerals, have yet to apply for permits to operate the mine, and are still seeking a major financial partner to replace Anglo American, a major global mining firm, that walked away from the partnership in 2013, after investing six years and at least $541 million in its partnership with Northern Dynasty.

House Bill 14, first introduced during the last session of the Alaska Legislature, failed to make it to the floor of the House, but the author of that bill, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, is optimistic about its chances of making it to the House floor during this session.

HB 14 has already been heard by the House Special Committee on Fisheries, chaired by Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, and Josephson said he’s optimistic that it will move on to the House Resources Committee, which he co-chairs with Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage. From there it would go to House Rules, chaired by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R- Anchorage, and former mayor of the Kodiak Island Borough. Should it pass the House, which Josephson thinks is likely, HB 14 would go on to the Senate, where passage would be a real long shot.

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