Fight Continues Over Alaska's Proposed Pebble Mine
Opponents are continuing to push against the proposed Pebble Mine project in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, even as the Army Corps of Engineers is expected to issue a final Environmental Impact Statement on the project next year.
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) asked the Corps to create a revised draft environmental impact statement, calling the existing version “fundamentally flawed and inadequate as to preclude any meaningful review on the likely impacts of this project” in a Nov. 21 letter to Corps Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite.
During an October hearing on the mine, Richard Borden, previously a general manager for Rio Tinto, which was a Pebble Mine partner that pulled out of the project in April 2014, said he doubted Pebble Partnership, a subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., would be able to “construct, operate and close a commercially viable mine in the setting that does not do permanent, material harm to the Bristol Bay Salmon fishery.”
The proposed open-pit copper, gold and molybdenum mine would be located at the headwaters of a critical wild fish habitat. At stake for proponents is 1.3-billion tons of mined material over 20 years of operation. For opponents, it’s the preservation of the largest remaining run of sockeye salmon in the world. United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a tribal consortium that depends on the watershed, also says the original draft EIS, issued in February, was flawed.
On Oct. 21, environmental advocacy group Earthworks filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and two additional regulatory agencies, asking for an investigation into possible insider trading related to Northern Dynasty Minerals regarding the Pebble Mine.
Attorney Linda M. Deola writes that Earthworks doesn’t know whether those privy to inside information acted on it, nor does it know who would have made such a disclosure, but “it is apparent that someone disclosed this information prior to the July 30, 2019, public announcement, and trades were made based upon this information.”
During the October hearing, Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said the company “denied unequivocally” that it had advance knowledge of the decision. In an email to ENR, Pebble Partnership said Earthworks had previously filed “meritless” complaints that the SEC did not investigate, echoing similar remarks by Collier during the hearing.
Bonnie Gestring, northwest program director for Earthworks, said the advocacy group had only filed one other complaint with the SEC.
Earthworks, along with NRDC, joined a lawsuit filed Oct. 9 by 12 environmental groups against the EPA, asking that the agency reinstate its 2014 proposed determination that would have limited mining activities in Bristol Bay. That decision was reversed by the Trump Administration.