Northern Dynasty to challenge Pebble permit rejection next month

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 (TSX: NDM; NYSE: NAK) will in January submit its request for an appeal of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE’s) negative record of decision (RoD) for its Alaska’s Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum-silver project.

The company said it would argue that the USACE’s mitigation requirements for Pebble were contrary to policy and precedent in Alaska and that the agency’s rejection of the mining firm’s compensation mitigation plan (CMP) was procedurally and substantively invalid.

“Although we believe the USACE’s ‘significant degradation’ finding to be contrary to law and unsupported by the administrative record as established by the Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”), we set out in good faith to meet their demand for in-kind and in-watershed mitigation at a very high and unprecedented ratio for Alaska – and after a tremendous amount of professional effort and investment, we did it,” Northern Dynasty CEO Ron Thiessen said in a media statement.

“For the USACE to summarily reject a CMP that is directly responsive to its requirements, to do it on the basis of what we believe to be largely minor and arbitrary deficiencies and without giving the proponent an opportunity to respond to those alleged deficiencies or otherwise amend its application is, we believe, without precedent in the long history of responsible resource development in Alaska,” Thiessen said.

The Pebble Project as proposed would directly or indirectly impact 3,650 acres of wetlands and other water bodies, as well as 185 miles of streams. To compensate for these impacts, the Pebble Partnership proposed the creation of a 112,445 acre Koktuli Conservation Area on state-owned land in the Koktuli watershed – thereby preserving 27,886 acres of wetlands, 1,174 acres of other waters and 814 miles (1,967 acres) of streams in the immediate vicinity of the Pebble Project, according to the company.

“We expended considerable financial and professional resources delivering exactly what the US Army Corps asked us to deliver on compensatory mitigation,” Thiessen said.

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 8.8% on the TSE. The company has a C$218 million market capitalization.