Two years of emails from EPA employee responsible for Pebble mine rejection lost — report

Two years of emails from EPA employee responsible of Pebble mine rejection lost — report

The area where Pebble mine would be built, 320 km southwest of Anchorage, within the Bristol Bay watershed. (Image courtesy of Northern Dynasty Minerals)

A government probe into the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rejection of massive copper-gold mine project in Alaska, has found 25 months of missing emails from the account of an employee who is believed to have played a major role in derailing the Pebble mine.

According to the official report published late Wednesday, the inspector general (IG) found that former EPA employee Phil North was using his private email account to help Alaskan tribes opposing the project in Bristol Bay draft a letter asking the government to kill the project.

However, the watchdog concluded that EPA showed no signs of bias in its review of permits for the mine.

Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX:NDM) (NYSE:MKT), parent company of the mine proponent Pebble Limited Partnership, expressed disappointment at the narrow scope and limited findings of the report.

The company said it was especially dissatisfied by the fact the IG “only gently” admonished the federal agency, with no further actions.

“With litigation against EPA pending, a preliminary injunction in place, and several US Congressional committees pursuing investigations into EPA misconduct, [the company] believes the standoff with EPA will be resolved this year,” President and CEO Ron Thiessen said in a statement.

"The EPA Inspector General's report is an embarrassing failure on its part to understand what several congressional committees, an independent federal judge in Alaska, and an independent review by a former Senator and cabinet secretary have already found — that EPA acted improperly with regard to Pebble and was biased in its actions,” added Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) CEO, Tom Collier.

According to the Daily Caller, investigators were also unable to get a hold of the employee’s private email account, which he allegedly used to coordinate actions with opponents to the Pebble Mine:

“What’s most startling is that the IG’s subpoena failed to get North’s private emails because the former EPA ecologist fled the country shortly after congressional investigators issued a subpoena for him to be deposed in 2013.”

EPA initiated a process to stop the mine in February 2014, alleging the Pebble Mine would have significant and irreversible negative impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed. The unusual action received global attention because Pebble had not filed a permit application yet.

The mine proponents complained EPA used “de facto advisory committees that worked behind the scenes, and out of the public eye,” which resulted in “biased, junk science.”

In November 2014, a U.S. federal judge temporarily stopped EPA from taking action against the copper-gold project.

The former EPA employee was last spotted in Australia.