Northern Dynasty to appeal US Army Corps’ Pebble decision

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) said on Thursday its unit, Pebble Partnership, was preparing an appeal after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a key water permit for the proposed Alaska mine.

The company’s shares cratered nearly 50% last week after its US-based subsidiary received formal notification that its application for permits under the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes was denied.

The negative Record of Decision (RoD) issued by the lead federal regulator for Alaska’s Pebble project on November 25, denied the copper-gold-molybdenum-silver-rhenium project a ‘dredge and fill’ permit on the grounds that its ‘compensatory mitigation plan’ is non-compliant and the project is not in the ‘public interest.’

The Pebble Partnership has 60 days to submit its application for administrative appeal to the USACE’s Pacific Ocean Division Engineer, headquartered in Hawaii.

“We believe there is a sound basis for this permitting decision to be overturned”

Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen

“We will take a significant proportion of the time allotted to us to complete an exhaustive review of the administrative record pertinent to the Pebble project environmental impact statement (EIS) and ROD, to prepare a comprehensive and substantive appeal and submit an RFA to the division engineer,” Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen said in a media statement.

“It is our view that this decision, the process by which it was reached and the facts upon which it is based stand as a significant outlier from standard USACE precedent and practice. We believe there is a sound basis for this permitting decision to be overturned.”

Thiessen said Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Partnership intend to challenge the USACE’s permitting decision on procedural, substantive and legal grounds.

Northern Dynasty contends that the RoD and the Public Interest Review (PIR) findings upon which it is based – are fundamentally unsupported by the Pebble Project EIS, issued in July.

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.

But Pebble’s permitting process has been surrounded by controversy and delays. Pebble faced environmental opposition from the onset as the mine would be near the world’s largest commercial sockeye salmon-producing region.

Midday Thursday, Northern Dynasty’s shares were up 10% on the TSE. The company has a C$243 million market capitalization.