Proposed Pebble Mine faces setback over environmental concerns

Leaders respond to Army Corps Decision on Pebble Mine
Exploratory equipment at the Pebble deposit, the proposed site of Pebble Mine.
Exploratory equipment at the Pebble deposit, the proposed site of Pebble Mine.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 24, 2020 at 2:50 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine can’t be permitted as currently proposed.

In a statement Monday, the Corps said the project, as proposed, “would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.” Therefore, the project cannot be permitted under section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Pebble Limited Partnership, which is behind the project, now has 90 days to come up with a plan for how it will compensate for all direct and indirect impacts caused by discharges into aquatic resources at the mine site. Areas impacted include 2,800 acres of wetlands, 132 acres of open waters, and 130 miles of streams within the Koktuli River Watershed.

PLP CEO Tom Collier said the request doesn’t delay or pause the project and was well into an effort to present a mitigation plan to the USACE that complies with the requirements.

“The letter does not ask for a delay or pause in the permitting process. In fact, it clearly states that the USACE is continuing its work toward a Record of Decision for the project. This is the next step in what has been a comprehensive, exhaustive two-and-a-half-year review of the project. Nothing in the letter is a surprise to us or them,” Collier said in a written statement.

In late-July, the Corps concluded the project would have no measurable effect on the area’s fish numbers, but would result in long-term changes to the health of the commercial fisheries in Bristol Bay.

“The letter does not ask for “more” or “additional” mitigation. This is the first time the USACE has put its formal assessment regarding mitigation for the Pebble Project on the record. Thus, it is a “first” request, not a new or additional one and it is in line with what we anticipated,” Collier said.

The proposed mine was blocked by the EPA under the Obama administration stating that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems. The Trump administration reversed that decision, allowing PLP to apply for a federal permit.

The United Tribes of Bristol Bay, which opposes the project said it is celebrating the decision but it is nowhere near a final action.

“This is a very big step in the right direction today, it is a devastating blow to the Pebble Limited Partnership to have the Corps recognize how toxic this project is, but it is definitely not over, we definitely cannot take our foot off the gas to ensure that Bristol Bay is protected,” UTBB executive director Alannah Hurley said.

The Corps will review the PLP’s mitigation plan to determine if the mitigation offered is sufficient to offset the adverse impacts and to determine whether the plan meets all requirements identified in the Rule.

To see how some of Alaska leaders responded to Monday’s announcement on the Pebble Mine Project: Click HERE

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