Pebble’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be ready in January

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

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Northern Dynasty Minerals’ (TSX: NDM) Pebble mine will be completed in January 2019.

During a press conference held this week at its Alaska division, representatives for the Corps said that the document will be open for public comment for 90 days rather than the usual 45 days.

Prior to this, a “scoping report” will be published in August 2018. The report is a compilation of the 175,000 comments gathered during the Draft Environmental Impact Statement scoping sessions that ended June 29.

Right before the scoping sessions were finalized, Alaska Governor Bill Walker asked the Army Corps to suspend the process. He said that, as it stands today, Pebble is not a “feasible and realistic” project.

However, the Corps was unable to comply with his request because Pebble Partnership, the subsidiary of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty that is making the proposal for the mine, has not submitted a feasibility study or evidence that the project is viable.

Shane McCoy, the Army Corps’ Alaska district Pebble program manager, explained in this week’s media event that a demonstration of economic feasibility is not a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act, which focuses on the environmental effects of a proposed action.

McCoy also said that once an Environmental Impact Statement process is launched it cannot be suspended unless that is asked for by the proponent or if the company is unable to supply additional information requested by the Corps.

Pebble is the world’s biggest undeveloped copper-gold-molybdenum porphyry deposit. It is located in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, which also hosts the largest sockeye salmon fishery on the planet.

Given its location, Pebble has drawn opposition from environmentalists, some native groups and fishers. Their strong stands led operators to redesign the project by reducing its development footprint by less than half the size previously envisaged, banning the use of cyanide, and restricting primary activities in the Upper Talarik watershed, among other measures.

Within this context, the approval process for the project has been dragging on for over a decade.

By 2020, however, Pebble should be getting a Record of Decision clearing the way for federal permits to be issued, McCoy said.

Such schedule is based on the current plan laid out by Pebble, considering it has not yet filed applications for state permits.

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