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USACE assigns a new review officer for Pebble appeal

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

The US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has assigned a new review officer to handle Northern Dynasty Minerals’ (TSX: NDM) appeal of a negative record of decision for the massive Pebble copper-gold project in Alaska.

The new review officer comes after the previous officer was promoted out of the position.

The new officer is expected to set a detailed timeline for the administrative appeal process, including scheduling a potential site visit and appeal conference in the weeks ahead.

The new officer is expected to set a detailed timeline for the administrative appeal process, including scheduling a potential site visit and appeal conference

Northern Dynasty’s US subsidiary, the Pebble Limited Partnership, says it has been advised that the administrative appeal process for Pebble could take a year or more given the complexity of the case. The administrative record contains 200,000 documents to date.

The Pebble Partnership submitted a request for appeal of the federal permitting decision in January.

“We have been, and continue to be, very concerned about USACE’s schedule and timeline for advancing our administrative appeal of the Pebble permitting decision, as we believe this does not accord with regulation,” said Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen in a media release this week.

“The new review officer has the power to help set the US down the path of strategic metals independence, which could enable the US to produce the copper, gold and silver it needs for a successful green economy transition. They can also help ensure that these metals are mined using industry-leading technologies under some of the strictest environmental standards in the world, while helping Alaska realize its right to manage its own resources for the benefit of its population.”

The project is considered one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits and has been through a roller coaster of regulation over the past 13 years.

The USACE in November denied a key water permit for the Pebble mine project. The lead federal regulator found Pebble’s ‘compensatory mitigation plan’ as submitted earlier this month to be ‘non-compliant’, and that the project is ‘not in the public interest’.

Northern Dynasty called the decision “politically motivated” and said it is fundamentally unsupported by the administrative record as developed by the USACE through the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the Pebble project.

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.

Northern Dynasty shares trading in Toronto have cratered more than 75% over the past 12 months as the Pebble project continues to lay in regulatory limbo. Shares last traded on Tuesday at C$0.475 per share, giving the company a market value of C$243.63 million.