Company unveils plan for what it calls smaller mine

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Saturday, October 7, 2017 7:48pm
  • News

JUNEAU— A company behind a stalled attempt to develop a copper and gold mine near a major salmon fishery in Alaska has unveiled plans for what it says will be a smaller, safer project.

Pebble Limited Partnership announced Thursday that it wants to reintroduce a project that for years has been the subject of fierce debate because of its location in the Bristol Bay area of southwest Alaska and its potential impacts on fish.

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed restrictions on development, but those limits were never finalized while Pebble and the EPA fought in court.

As part of a legal settlement earlier this year, the EPA under President Donald Trump pledged to initiate a process for withdrawing the proposed restrictions. Public comment is now being taken on that issue.

Critics of Pebble, who say the Bristol Bay region is not the place for the mine, worry that the revamped project might only be a starting point for a larger operation in years to come.

“This is just a wolf in a sheep’s clothing,” Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, said in a statement.

Pebble compared its proposed plan to scenarios analyzed by the EPA and said the footprint for major mine facilities, such as a tailings storage facility and pit, would cover about 5.4 square miles (13.99 sq. kilometers).

Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole said that would put the project “within striking distance” of the smallest footprint EPA analyzed in proposing the restrictions.

Pebble said the entire project footprint would cover 12.7 square miles (32.89 sq. kilometers).

Heatwole said Friday that the project has proposed ways to reduce the potential impact on fish. Additional steps are being proposed to minimize wetland impacts and address other concerns, according to Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which owns the Pebble partnership.

With respect to earthquakes, the company says the mine would be designed to withstand “the greatest possible seismicity predicted by science.”

Heatwole said the project being considered would operate for 20 years.

Pebble plans to submit a permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in December.

Hurley sees Pebble’s new plan as a marketing ploy and an attempt to rebrand the controversial project and woo a new partner.

“At the end of the day, Pebble cannot be developed in Bristol Bay without impacting fish. And no matter what they do to try and disguise that, we’re not falling for it,” she said in an interview.

She also points to what she sees as contradictory statements by mine officials. She noted recent comments by Ron Thiessen, Northern Dynasty Minerals’ president and CEO, who has called the project a “multigenerational opportunity.”

Heatwole said Pebble does not have plans beyond what it has outlined. Any future development would require another permitting process, he said.

More in News

The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26 on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
State lifts burn suspension

Residents may now obtain permits for burn barrels as well as for small and large-scale brush fires.

A chart produced by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services shows four risk factors in being infected by COVID-19. (Graph courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
17th Alaskan dies of COVID-19

There were 23 new positive cases of COVID-19 announced Tuesday.

Noah and Eddie Land of Grace Acres Farm in Kasilof set out produce Tuesday, July 7, 2020, at the Farmers Fresh Market at Kenai Peninsula Food Bank. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Freshness times 2

DoubleUp program helps seniors, families eat healthy

In this July 20, 2013 file photo, several thousand dipnetters converged onto the mouth of the Kenai River to catch a share of the late run of sockeye salmon headed into the river in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion file photo/Rashah McChesney)
Dipnetters banned from retaining kings

Dipnetting on the Kenai River opens Friday.

The entrance to the Kenai Peninsula Borough building in Soldotna, Alaska, is seen here on June 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Application period for borough relief funds begins Monday

Borough residents can apply for these grants July 13 through July 24.

A young volunteer chases three piglets named Mary Hamkins, Petunia and Sir Oinks-a-lot through a race during the pig races at the Kenai Peninsula Fair on Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Kenai Peninsula Fair canceled this year

Cotton candy, carnival rides and racing pigs will have to wait for… Continue reading

COVID-19. (Image CDC)
State reports 30 new cases; hospitalizations reach new high

The cases include 28 residents and two nonresidents.

photos by Megan Pacer / Homer News 
                                A youth rider takes a turn riding a bull calf during the 60th annual Ninilchik Rodeo on Saturday, July 4 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik. The rodeo lasted throughout the July Fourth holiday and celebrated a return to the event’s roots.
Riding high in Ninilchik

Ninilchik Rodeo celebrates 60 years with events new and old.

A closed sign is posted at a retail store shuttered due to the new coronavirus, in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to vote on relief funds for businesses, nonprofits

CARES Relief and Recovery Grant funds would be rolled out in two phases.

Most Read