Tag Archives: pebble mine

WaPost: EPA to release proposal on Friday to stop Pebble

Big news from the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency will issue a proposal Friday under the Clean Water Act that would limit mining activity in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, according to two individuals familiar with the decision. The proposed determination, which will now be subject to a public comment period, represents the latest step by the Obama administration to impose restrictions on a massive gold and copper mining project, called  Pebble Mine…Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)  has repeatedly warned EPA not to issue a “preemptive veto” against Pebble Mine, though Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and other Democratic senators from the Pacific Northwest  such as Maria Cantwell (Wash.) have argued it poses too great a  risk to the wild fishery.


Federal delegation reacts to Pebble Mine announcement

Here’s how the ADN sums up EPA’s announcement regarding Pebble Mine:  “A federal agency announced Friday it is taking steps to protect the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery, the largest in the world, under the Clean Water Act. The actions could lead to a virtually unprecedented administrative veto of the proposed Pebble mine even before developers formally submit plans.”

It’s rare for the EPA to take such an action. It’s only done so 13 times since 1972 even though some 80,000 wetlands fill permits are issued each year.

As of 4 p.m Eastern time, Northern Dynasty’s stock fell to $1.00, from an opening of $1.47. Northern Dynasty’s sole asset is Pebble.

As expected, Rep. Don Young called it an “expansive, jurisdictional power grab.” Sen. Lisa Murkowski called it a “terrible precedent,” and Sen. Mark Begich is “skeptical.” The full reactions are below:

Sen. Mark Begich:

While I am a strong supporter of responsible resource development – including mining – I have said the Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place. However, I am skeptical of federal overreach from an administration that has already demonstrated it does not understand Alaska’s unique needs. The residents of Bristol Bay and Alaska Peninsula need certainty to plan their future and I will be making sure the administration does not take any actions that could have unintended consequences down the road for this region or other development projects in Alaska.

Rep. Don Young:

I have always been clear about the severity of the EPA’s unwarranted involvement in the proposed Pebble Mine project, especially this early in the process. This expansive, jurisdictional power grab proposed by the EPA severely jeopardizes not only Alaska’s sovereignty, but the rights of states and all private property owners nationwide.

Today’s announcement for review under section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act shows an agency corrupted by politics, one with no regard for the state or federal permitting processes found in statute. Instead, the EPA seeks to broaden its reach until their tentacles encumber every aspect of American life.

My concern for this process is much bigger than the Pebble Mine, in my eyes this isn’t even about the Pebble Mine. For the EPA to preemptively oppose a project located entirely on state land, a project already subject to a rigorous state permitting process, is a serious threat to any future projects on State of Alaska, Alaska Native, or even individually owned private land.

Annually, the Army Corps of Engineers issues tens of thousands of 404 permits. These projects range from pipelines, electrical transmission lines, roads, railways, agriculture, renewable energy projects like wind and solar, to commercial construction projects, parking lots, and even home development. I will be very clear, this overstep by the EPA today could mean the loss of our state to the federal government.

From Sen. Lisa Murkowski:

I understand that many in Bristol Bay strongly oppose this potential mine. I have spoken with dozens of local residents, including a large group who traveled all the way to Washington, DC, this week to make their case. It is out of respect for their concerns, livelihoods, and culture that I have reserved judgment on the mine itself – and made a commitment that we will not trade one resource for another. I do understand the importance and value of the fisheries resources that are an integral part of the Bristol Bay region. But even with that in mind, for the sake of sound law and policy, I have no choice but to remain strenuously and unequivocally opposed to a preemptive veto by EPA.

For the past three years, I have urged the agency not to prejudge this potential project before its developers sought permits or presented an official description of it. I have also called on the project’s owners to present their plan so that Alaskans have greater certainty about its expected benefits and impacts. Both parties must respect and abide by the permitting process. Neither should be allowed to subvert or circumvent it.

Today, however, EPA continued to move toward a premature veto based on what it assumes may happen with this project. We already have undeniably grave problems with federal agencies blocking resource production on federal lands in Alaska. Now to see a federal agency overstep its authority and move prematurely to block even the consideration of a permit for potential activity on state lands is something I simply cannot accept.

When and if a permit application is submitted – for Pebble or any other project – an independent scientific review is exactly what happens under the environmental review process that NEPA and the Clean Water Act provide. For any project, Alaskans and all Americans deserve a fair and unbiased environmental review of the project once a project description has been submitted.

If EPA’s action today in effect prejudges this project, the process EPA has outlined could establish a terrible precedent that only further detracts from investors’ willingness to bring capital and jobs to Alaska. It will also open the door to preemptive vetoes on this and other projects, putting development on all of our state’s lands – and both public and private lands across the nation – at risk. EPA asserts that this situation is ‘unique.’ If this action is allowed to stand, where will the next ‘unique’ circumstance arise? EPA’s actions here could have potentially widespread consequences for any development project, including airports and other infrastructure, anywhere in the nation.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Deep pockets drop out of Pebble project

Mining giant Anglo America, the Pebble Partnership’s weight and muscle, announced on Monday that it’s dropping out of the Pebble mine project.

What this means to the mine is unclear. But it doesn’t bode well for Pebble’s prospects. Anglo had a 50 percent interest in the project. The other 50 percent belongs to Northern Dynasty. Anglo is the parent company to the diamond giant De Beers, and the company has holdings all over the world. Northern Dynasty’s sole asset is Pebble.

Anglo says that it’s dropping its project to focus on lower risk projects, ones that are perhaps less politically charged. The EPA is in the process of deciding whether or not to block the project, which would be one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines near the source of over a third of the world’s wild salmon supply.

If the EPA chooses not to block Pebble, it will likely become one of the country’s most heated environmental fights. Anglo and De Beers have already been getting pressure from jewelers across the world to drop out of the project.

Northern Dynasty’s stock, which opened on Monday at $1.66, had dropped 34 percent by midday East Coast Time.

Northern Dynasty vows to fight on. The company’s CEO Ron Thiessen said that it has $541 million worth of expenditures, “which opens the door to a number of exciting possibilities for Northern Dynasty and its shareholders and the Pebble Project and its stakeholders.”

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


Thank God it’s Friday’s random facts: The Wood-Tikchik edition

Thank God it's Friday facts Just north of Dillingham, thousands of king salmon are entering the Nushegak river. Just over the hill, the Agluowak is brimming with Arctic char, sockeye salmon and rainbow trout. These waterways are in the drop-dead gorgeous Wood-Tikchik State Park, where your amasser of Friday facts is currently enjoying a visit. Here are a few Friday facts about the park, and about the nearby Pebble Mine.

    • Wood-Tikchik State Park is the largest state park in Alaska and the United States.
    • At 1.6 million acres, it’s about the size of Delaware.
    • There are 15 major lakes in the park, varying in length from 15-45 miles, and can be as deep at 900 feet.
    • The Agulowak provides spawning grounds for 200,000 sockeye salmon and passes 1.2 million others to higher spawning grounds in the drainage.
    • Some of those salmon in the park waterways will make their way to the site of the proposed Pebble Mine, which, if built, would be one of the largest gold and copper mines in the world.
    • Callan J. Chythlook-Sifsof from Aleknagik, Alaska was a member of the United States snowboarding team in the 2010 Winter Olympics and is training for the 2014 Winter Olympics. She has some things to say about Pebble Mine in Thursday’s New York Times in a piece entitled, “Native Alaska, Under Threat.”
    • Gold fell 23 percent in second quarter to close at $1,223.80 an ounce on Friday, the lowest it’s been in about three years. Mining companies are taking it hard. If things continue, Donald Marleau an analyst at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said that he would expect the market to downgrade mining companies.
    • In the past 52 weeks, Northern Dynasty’s stock has fluctuated between $5.40 and $1.85. It closed on Friday at $2.09. Northern Dynasty’s principle asset is Pebble Mine. In 2007, the company partnered with mining giant Anglo American plc. Which is required to fund US$1.5 billion of project costs to retain its 50 percent interest.
    • In the past 52 weeks, Anglo American’s stock has fluctuated between $16.96 to $9.53. On Friday, its stock closed at $9.63.
    • In 2010, 538 Washington residents held drift gillnet and set gillnet commercial salmon fishing licenses in Bristol Bay, off of which they made a total gross estimated earnings of about $60 million.
    • The 2010 census counted 299 residents in both Iliamna and Newhalen, two communities closest to the mine. Out of those, only 26 had commercial fishing permits, and only 22 fished those permits, according to the Alaska’s Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com