Alaska Governor to appeal Pebble permit denial

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

The office of Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a statement late last week to announce the administration will formally appeal the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) denial of a key federal permit for Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX: NDM; NYSE: NAK) Pebble project.

Pebble’s development has been surrounded by controversy and delays, including the EPA’s decision in 2014 to propose restricting the discharge of mining waste and other material in the area.

The lead federal regulator found Pebble’s ‘compensatory mitigation plan’ to be ‘non-compliant’, and that the project is ‘not in the public interest’.

Governor Dunleavy said the USACE’s Record of Decision and accompanying denial of a Clean Water Act 404 permit for the proposed copper-gold-molybdenum-silver-rhenium project is “flawed (and)…creates a dangerous precedent that will undoubtedly harm Alaska’s future.”

The Pebble Partnership’s and State of Alaska’s requests for appeal must be submitted by the end of January

As owner of the land and subsurface mineral estate at Pebble, the State of Alaska has the right – along with Northern Dynasty’s 100%-owned US-based subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership to launch an administrative appeal of the USACE’s permitting decision, Northern Dynasty said in a press release on Monday.

The Pebble Partnership’s and State of Alaska’s requests for appeal must be submitted by the end of January. USACE guidelines indicate the administrative appeal process should conclude within 90 days.

In its statement, the State of Alaska also suggests the USACE’s requirements concerning mitigation at Pebble are unprecedented and inconsistent with longstanding practice and policy guidance in the state.

“The Alaska District’s decision has far-reaching and ominous implications for our rights as a state to develop our resources for the benefit of all Alaskans, whether its mineral deposits like Pebble, or oil and gas on the
North Slope, or other resources anywhere in the state,” Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said.

“The Alaska Constitution specifically directs us to develop our resources in the public interest. When a federal agency arbitrarily tries to deprive us of our rights with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen, we simply must challenge that action.”

With resource estimates including 6.5 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated categories containing 57 billion pounds of copper and 71 million ounces of gold, 3.4 billion pounds of molybdenum and 345 million silver ounces, if permitted, Pebble would be North America’s largest mine.

Midday Monday, Northern Dynasty’s shares were up 9% on the TSE. The company has a C$259 million market capitalization.

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