Pebble Mine Proposal in Alaska Rejected Over Environmental Concerns -- 3rd Update
By Timothy Puko
WASHINGTON -- The Army Corps of Engineers is rejecting the
environmental plan for the massive Pebble Mine in Alaska, likely
marking an end to one of the country's most controversial proposals
to extract gold and copper in a pristine wilderness.
The project would violate Clean Water Act guidelines, the corps
The Pebble Mine called for excavating an open pit to mine
hundreds of billions of dollars worth of minerals from under the
Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska's southwest. It has drawn
widespread opposition from locals and environmentalists, including
some conservatives, for the risk it poses to some of the world's
largest wild salmon populations.
The project would violate rules for disposing of "fill
material," according to a statement from Alaska District Commander
Col. Damon Delarosa of the Army Corps of Engineers. The statement
didn't give further details.
The corps "concluded that the proposed project is contrary to
the public interest," the statement added.
For now, the decision likely ends a decadeslong quest to reach
one of the largest known and untapped sources of gold and copper in
President-elect Joe Biden said this summer he would stop its
development, and company leaders have previously said they need
federal permits to bring in well-heeled partners that could invest
to help them continue.
The project's owners, a subsidiary of Canada's Northern Dynasty
Minerals Ltd., had once valued the ore at $300 billion to $500
billion and drew partnerships with some of the world's largest
mining companies, including Anglo American PLC and Rio Tinto PLC.
But those companies pulled out amid falling commodity prices and
growing pressure over environmental concerns.
A 2014 report from the Environmental Protection Agency said the
Pebble mine could have significant adverse effects on the region's
fisheries and the Native Alaskan communities that depend on them.
Fifteen federally recognized tribes in the region had formed a
coalition to stop it, and a poll they helped commission in June of
this year showed likely voters statewide opposed the project by a
The decision comes months after some of President Trump's most
prominent supporters -- including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
-- mounted a last-minute push against the project. They wanted the
president to intervene against a project his administration had
The Corps in July published a final environmental assessment
saying the project posed no serious risk. Then a month later, amid
widening opposition, the Corps made demands for severe mitigation
measures to receive final approval.
John Shively, chief executive of Pebble Limited Partnership, the
project's developer, called Wednesday's decision "politically
driven" and said it would be a loss for the local economy and for
clean-energy businesses that need cheap copper to keep growing.
"We are obviously dismayed by today's news," he said in a
statement. July's environmental assessment "clearly stated it could
be developed responsibly. It is very disconcerting to see political
influence in this process at the 11th hour."
A White House spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request
The company plans to appeal the decision, the statement said
without giving further details. Its leaders have work to do
"sorting out their next steps," it said.
Environmentalists said they now plan to pursue long-term
environmental protections for the region. While the incoming
administration is opposed to the project, the deposits are still
there and the current developers or new, better-financed developers
could seek to revive it later.
"Today's decision gives the people of Bristol Bay temporary
relief from this mine," said Guido Rahr, leader of the Wild Salmon
Center, which has helped marshal opposition from influential
Republicans and sportsmen's groups this summer. "It's now time for
EPA to use the Clean Water Act to kill this mine once and for
Write to Timothy Puko at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 25, 2020 14:38 ET (19:38 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.