Northern Dynasty scores temporary win in battle against EPA

Northern Dynasty scores temporary win in battle against EPA over Pebble mine

Bristol Bay area. (Courtesy of the EPA)

After weeks of heated debate the U.S. federal court in Alaska has said it won’t rule on the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to use a regulatory provision to block Pebble Mine from being built until at least January 2, 2015.

In a press release late Wednesday the company behind the project, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (TSX:NDM) (NYSE MKT:NAK) said the EPA has agreed not to attempt using the Clean Water Act Section 404(c) until the date set by Judge H. Russel Holland.

The magistrate noted his court must resolve a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by the Pebble Limited Partnership challenging EPA’s authority to pre-emptively impose development restrictions on Pebble prior to the submission of a proposed development plan to state and federal agencies.

EPA attacks

The EPA has said it issued such proposal ". . . to protect one of the world’s most valuable salmon fisheries, in Bristol Bay, Alaska, from the risks posed by large-scale mining at the Pebble deposit."

"Science has shown that development of this mine, which is backed by Northern Dynasty Minerals and the Pebble Limited Partnership, would be one of the largest open pit copper mines in the world and would threaten one of the world’s most productive salmon fisheries," EPA said in July.

But the group seeking to develop the massive copper-gold mine says the agency’s study is biased. In a lawsuit it says, according to Associated Press, that EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act and held secret meetings with de facto advisory committees in drafting the report.

Miners respond

The Pebble Partnership insists that if built, Pebble would create thousands of jobs and provide an economic base for an economically depressed region that would last for decades.

Northern Dynasty scores temporary win in battle against EPA over Pebble mine

The proposed Pebble Mine, 320 km southwest of Anchorage, is within the Bristol Bay watershed.

Estimates are the project would also generate $165 million to $213 million in annual tax and royalty revenue to the state as well as taxes to the Lake and Peninsula Borough, the regional municipality.

Anglo American (LON:AAL) left the project last year, handing its 50% stake in the project back to Northern Dynasty and taking a $300 million write down in the process. Rio Tinto (LON, ASX:RIO) followed Anglo’s steps in April, announcing it was donating its 19.1% stake in Northern Dynasty to two Alaskan charities.

The State of Alaska has intervened in the case in support of Pebble Partnership because the mine would be on state-owned lands. Those lands are classified for mineral development in the state’s regional land management.