Northern Dynasty’s Pebble copper project gains more time

Drilling at the Pebble project in Alaska. (Image courtesy of Northern Dynasty Minerals.)

Northern Dynasty Minerals (TSX: NDM)(NYSE: NAK) will have to wait until the end of the week to hear the US Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) comment on future plans regarding the company’s Pebble copper project in southwest Alaska.

The Canadian miner said the body’s Alaska district had requested a second extension of 45 days to June 29 to decide whether or not the miner can proceed with permitting its copper-gold-molybdenum project.

Pebble has been on a roller coaster of regulations for the past 15 years. Former US President Barack Obama opposed the project, and his successor Donald Trump ultimately did too, deeming it “too risky”.

President Joe Biden has openly expressed its opposition to the project, taking steps as soon as he took the post in 2021 to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay.

As part of the administration’s measures against Pebble, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocked the company in January from storing mine waste in the state’s watershed, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fisheries.

Northern Dynasty has since raised doubts about its ability to continue if it is unable to raise the necessary capital for the project and continue the permitting process for the mine.

The Pacific Ocean Division of the Army Corps agreed in April to take another look at its refusal in 2020 to approve the project, after Northern Dynasty successfully appealed the decision. 

For decades, explorers and developers have been attracted to resource-rich southwestern Alaska, known for holding significant deposits of gold, copper, molybdenum and other minerals near the headwaters of two rivers flowing into Bristol Bay.

But conservationists, local activists, fishermen and federal regulators have argued that industrial, open-pit mining operations to extract the lode threatens the region’s thriving sockeye salmon fishery.

If and when the mine moves into production, it would be the largest in North America.