Feds quash 21-year old permit after coal mining restarted, overruling Alaska Natural Resources Dept

Earthjustice reports a coal mining permit issued in Alaska 21 years ago — but not utilized until recently — has been ruled as no longer valid by a US federal agency:

"The permit is held by Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. for the Wishbone Hill Coal Mine, a proposed strip mine located on traditional Tribal land of the Chickaloon Native Village, near Anchorage, Alaska. The company began to develop the mine in 2010, but has recently ceased again

"Since the permit expired nearly 16 years ago, the Alaska DNR has “erroneously transferred and renewed invalid permits,” according to the OSM [Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement].

"The permit is invalid because Usibelli failed to commence operations within three years after the permit was issued, as required by state and federal law, and has not obtained valid extensions since 1996."

The Alaskan mining jurisdiction has been in the spotlight this week.

On Thursday Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold miner, decided not to invest in what would've become one of the world's largest precious metals mines.

According to Barrick the Donlin Gold project in Alaska – 50%-owned by Novagold – does not meet its investment criteria "primarily due to large initial capital investment."

The Toronto-based miner acknowledged the massive size of the mineral resources and said it will advance "permitting activities at reasonable costs which, in the case of Donlin Gold, will take a number of years."

Arguably the richest prize in mining today, the Pebble project located in the Bristol Bay area was the subject of a controversial new documentary from Frontline called Alaska Gold which aired on Tuesday.

The deposit, jointly owned by Anglo American and Northern Dynasty Minerals, hosts 55 billion pounds of copper, 76 million ounces of gold, 3.3 billion pounds of molybdenum, and quantities of silver, palladium and rhenium.

So far the Pebble Partnership has invested about $500 million over almost a decade and the project has its backers including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, but has run into strong resistance from environmental groups.

Pebble was slammed in an EPA report released in May, which the backers of the project said was highly premature and reflected "more on the state of politics and advocacy surrounding Pebble than on science."

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