‘Here we go again,’ reacts Northern Dynasty’s Thiessen on EPA permitting decision

The Pebble mine has one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits. (Image: Northern Dynasty Minerals)

“Here we go again,” said Northern Dynasty (TSX: NDM; NYSE: NAK) president and CEO Ron Thiessen in reaction to the news last week that the Biden administration will reconsider pre-emptively vetoing the company’s proposed Pebble copper-gold mine in Alaska.

It was “unfortunate that politics continues to interfere with scientific evidence,” said Thiessen in a September 10 statement.

The Pebble project could be a significant domestic source for Industry 4.0 metals.

“Under President Joe Biden, we once again find ourselves dealing with Obama-era policies that were inappropriate then and are inappropriate now. We fought and won against former President Obama’s heavy-handed political attempts to kill the project, and we will do the same again,” Thiessen said.

In an Alaska federal district court filing on Thursday, the Department of Justice asked that the court vacate a 2019 decision by the Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency to remove protection of the Bristol Bay watershed, home of one of North America’s biggest sockeye salmon fisheries.

The Pebble project has been pursued for more than a decade and faced environmental opposition from the onset. Its 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.

In a media statement, the Pebble Limited Partnership said it continued to monitor the developments closely for possible impacts to the project and permitting process.

“It remains our position that the withdrawal of the pre-emptive veto by the EPA was sound and appropriate. This is why we recently sought to intervene in the case in the federal district court in Anchorage,” it said.

It had long held that all Pebble decisions should be made based on the established environmental review process of an actual mine plan, not on a pre-emptive basis, as is once more possible.

In 2020, the US Army Corps of Engineers published an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Pebble capturing the input from many agencies that concluded the project could be done without harming the region’s fisheries or water resources.

“The EIS further notes the tremendous economic opportunity the project represents for the communities around Iliamna Lake where year-round jobs are scarce, and living costs are quite high. Our focus remains on working through the formal appeal process via the USACE. As the Biden Administration seeks lower carbon emissions for energy production, they should recognize that such change will require significantly more mineral production – notably copper.”

The Pebble project could be a significant domestic source for Industry 4.0 metals, including copper, but the Biden Administration’s recent track record has dealt major domestic mining investment a black eye.

Another major project’s future in limbo

MINING.COM reported on Friday a US House of Representatives committee has voted to include language in the broader budget reconciliation package that would block Rio Tinto from building its Resolution copper mine in Arizona.

Rio has tried for more than 26 years to launch the Resolution copper project, which would be one of the world’s largest underground mines.

The company and minority partner BHP have spent $2 billion but have yet to produce any copper, a key material used to make electric vehicles.

The Biden administration put the mine on hold last month amid opposition from Native American groups and environmentalists. Local leaders and many residents support the mine because of its economic benefits.

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