A Canadian mining company in pursuit of building and operating a copper, gold and molybdenum mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed has won the right to appeal a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision denying them a crucial permit. The Corps has agreed to let Northern Dynasty Minerals’ wholly owned subsidiary, the Pebble Limited Partnership in Anchorage, appeal its decision regarding a Clean Water Act 404 permit. The Corps issued a record of decision late last year saying that issuing that permit would not be in the public interest.
NDM officials said USACE guidelines indicate the appeal process should conclude within 90 days, although it could be extended under certain circumstances.
The Corps declined to allow the state of Alaska to also appeal its permit denial to the PLP on grounds that the state did not meet the criteria of being an affected party. The Corps notified the Alaska Department of Law of its decision, prompting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy to say that as the owner of the mineral estate impacted by that decision, the state would continue to pursue all options to have Alaskans heard.
“This is another example of the federal government imposing a flawed decision that blocks Alaska’s ability to responsibly develop its land and resources,” Dunleavy said. “We will not stop fighting for Alaska’s economic prosperity.”
Commercial fishermen and conservation opponents of the Pebble mine meanwhile urged the Biden administration to provide permanent protection for the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon.
Tim Bristol, executive director of the conservation entity SalmonState, said the state of Alaska needs to accept the reality that the majority of Alaskans, except for Governor Dunleavy, have said for decades that the Pebble mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place.
It’s time for the EPA to take action to reenact lasting protections for Bristol Bay, he said.
The national coalition Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay also weighed in on the issue, urging federal action that would lay to rest once and for all the uncertainty of the future of the largest wild sockeye salmon run in the world. The fishermen want protections for the Bay, which provides some 15,000 jobs in commercial fisheries and $2.2 billion in economic activity and a generational fishing way of life, said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. A reversal of this permit denial would put Bristol Bay and the world’s largest salmon fishery back in peril, she said.