A proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska that the Obama administration would not even allow to begin the permitting process can now go forward in the wake of a settlement between the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency and the company hoping to develop the mine.
The EPA and the Pebble Limited Partnership are now asking that a lawsuit against the proposed Bristol Bay project be dropped so the company can follow normal channels to get the permits it needs for the mine.
“The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in a statement, “but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation.”
“We are committed to due process and the rule of law, and regulations that are ‘regular,’” he said.
“We understand how much the community cares about this issue, with passionate advocates on all sides … We are committed to listening to all voices as this process unfolds,” he added.
Northern Dynasty Minerals, which wanted to develop the site but was blocked by the Obama administration from even trying to start the permit process, hailed the EPA’s action, even though it still faces a long process to secure the necessary approvals for the project.
The environmental question at issue with the project is the impact it would have on the region’s sockeye salmon fishery.
Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said the salmon population must be protected.
“If there’s damage to the watershed and the fisheries, then it would be devastating to our identity as indigenous people,” Hurley said.
The company vowed to protect the environment while developing the mine.
“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,” Ron Thiessen, CEO of Northern Dynasty, said in a statement. “Today’s settlement gives us precisely that, the same treatment every developer and investor in a stable, first-world country should expect.”
Theissen said the company, which was blocked from going forward with its initial plan in 2014, now plans a “smaller project design at Pebble than previously considered, and one that incorporates significant environmental safeguards.”
“Not only will we be rolling out a project that is smaller, with demonstrable environmental protections, we will also be announcing a number of new initiatives to ensure our project is more responsive to the priorities and concerns of Alaskans,” said Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier