Northern Dynasty releases ESG report for Pebble project

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

Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX:NDM) (NYSE:NAK), the company behind the controversial Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project in Alaska, has released an environmental, social and governance (ESG) report for the proposed mine, as it awaits the results of an appeal to the US government’s decision to block the development.

The Vancouver-based explorer, which early this year appealed the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE’s) negative Record of Decision (ROD) for the proposed project in the Bristol Bay, said the ESG document would address some of the biases towards the stalled project.

The USACE had originally said, in July last year, that Pebble would “not have measurable effects” on fish populations or fisheries in southwest Alaska.

“For many reasons, including the deposit’s size and significance and its location in a vast region that supports world-class fisheries the Pebble project has been marked by public controversy and rhetoric”

Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen

But the lead federal regulator published a ROD on November 25 denying the project a key permit under the Clean Water Act on the grounds that its “compensatory mitigation plan” was non-compliant and Pebble was not in the “public interest.”

“For many reasons, including the Pebble deposit’s size and significance, its location in a vast region that supports world-class fisheries, and the active campaigning of national environmental organizations, the Pebble project has been marked by public controversy and rhetoric,” Northern Dynasty president and chief executive Ron Thiessen said in a statement.

“It’s unfortunate because so much of the good work done to plan, permit, develop and operate a modern copper mine at Pebble that would, in many ways, set a new standard for responsible mineral development in the US has been obscured,” Thiessen noted.

The report summarizes the major ESG polices, planning and engineering approaches, contracting and business development, revenue sharing, as well as the social commitments the company has made since acquiring the project in 2001.

Supported by fundamentals

Investors reacted positively to the news, with the stock climbing 1.76% to 61 cents US in early trading in New York, still below the multi-year high of $1.94 it reached last July. While the company’s shares have encountered substantial volatility recently, they are up around 74% so far this year.

“Much of the drama and debate surrounding Northern Dynasty’s stock involves the company’s ability (or lack thereof) to develop this project,” InvestorPlace’s analyst Louis Navellier wrote in early April.

With skyrocketing demand and prices for copper, Northern Dynasty has a vested interest in exploring and developing the mine, which permitting process has been surrounded by controversy and delays.

If Northern Dynasty wins the battle and gets Pebble permitted it would be North America’s largest mine, capable of producing 70 million tonnes of gold, molybdenum and copper ore a year.

The asset’s resource estimates talk of 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,

However, the mine would also create a pit 1,970 ft (600 m) deep in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed. Opponents said the project threatens a world-class sockeye salmon fishery, putting more than $1 billion of revenue and over 10,000 jobs at risk.