Army Corps Of Engineers Deny Pebble Mine Permit Application (Updated)

Obviously this is huge Thanksgiving eve news. Here’s more from the Anchorage Daily News:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the agency “determined that the applicant’s plan for the discharge of fill material does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines and concluded that the proposed project is contrary to the public interest.”

Here’s the Army Corps of Engineers’ full statement:


Update: Northern Dynasty Minerals, the overseer of the project, had this to say about the decision:

Northern Dynasty reacts to negative federal Record of Decision on Alaska’s Pebble Project

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (TSX: NDM; NYSE American: NAK) (“Northern Dynasty” or the “Company”) announces that today, its 100%-owned, US-based subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership (the “Pebble Partnership”) received formal notification from the US Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”) that its application for permits under the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes has been denied. 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. The Company intends to launch an administrative appeal of the USACE permitting decision.

The Company notes:

“The Final EIS found Pebble to be a project of merit that would fully co-exist with clean water, healthy fish and wildlife populations, and the important fisheries resources of southwest Alaska. The Final EIS also found that Pebble would make an important, positive socioeconomic contribution to the people and villages of Bristol Bay, Alaska – where full-time jobs are scarce and people face one of the highest costs of living in the country – as well as to the State of Alaska and the United States.

“Based on the positive findings of the Final EIS, conclusions by the USACE that development of the Pebble Project is ‘not in the public interest’ are wholly unsupported.

“At a time when the United States has declared a ‘national emergency’ due to its over-reliance on foreign producers for critical minerals required to ensure the country’s future economic and military security, it is unconscionable to determine that permitting and development of one of the greatest accumulations of strategic and critical minerals ever discovered on American soil is ‘not in the public interest’.

“President-elect Biden’s campaign recently said his administration would support boosting domestic production of copper and other metals necessary for the production of clean and renewable energy technologies, and a transition to a lower carbon future.”

Northern Dynasty confirmed that the Pebble Partnership will appeal the USACE permitting decision within the 60-day window provided for it to do so.

“For the United States to turn its back on an opportunity to develop these minerals here at home in a manner that US regulators have agreed is environmentally safe and responsible, and to do so for purely political reasons, is not just short-sighted,” said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen. “It’s self- destructive.”

Here’s some more reaction, starting with a statement from SalmonState:

ANCHORAGE—The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today denied the Clean Water Act 404 permit for the Pebble Mine, a massive open pit mine proposed for the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the greatest sockeye salmon resource on the planet. Following is a statement from SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol on the decision: 

“Sometimes a project is so bad, so indefensible, that the politics fall to the wayside and we get the right decision. That is what happened today. But denial of a permit does not mean Bristol Bay is safe from the threat of the Pebble Mine. The critical next step is to reestablish the Clean Water Act protections for America’s greatest salmon fishery — protections that should have never been done away with in the first place. This can and should be an early priority for the Biden Administration.”

Trout Unlimited:

ANCHORAGE, AK – Today, in a move welcomed by millions of Americans, Alaskan communities, and admirers of the most prolific wild salmon fishery in the world, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) denied the application for the key permit for the proposed Pebble mine. The Corps had said the mine would cause significant degradation and significant adverse effects to the waters and fisheries of the Bristol Bay region.  

“The Corps’ denial of the permit for the Pebble Mine is a victory for common sense,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Bristol Bay is the wrong place for industrial-scale mining, and we look forward to working with the people of the Bristol Bay region, Alaska’s Congressional delegation, the state, and other partners to permanently protect Bristol Bay and its world class fisheries.”   

The Corps announced in August that the project could not be permitted “as currently proposed” and required Pebble Limited Partnership to create a new compensatory mitigation plan. Since then, technical experts concluded that it would be nearly impossible for the company to meet those mitigation standards. In the meantime, Pebble’s reputation took a hit with the release of the Pebble Tapes, which led to CEO Tom Collier’s resignation. 

“Good riddance. The opposition to this project from all corners of the political spectrum runs strong and deep. The process has played out, and the science is clear. There is no way this ill-conceived project can coexist with Bristol Bay salmon,” said Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited. “The denial of Pebble’s permit is a victory for American jobs, rural communities, and a fishing and hunting paradise long threatened by this shortsighted and reckless proposal. With this behind us, the people of Bristol Bay can start the work of ensuring the region is protected into the future from threats.” 

Throughout the two-year permit review process, many organizations, federal and state agencies, independent scientists, and individuals raised potentially fatal concerns about this project. Among them were the project’s expected destruction of streams and wetlands, its untested and incomplete water management and mitigation plans, its unreliable tailings dam design, and its huge economic costs. Those concerned about the mine also cited threats to existing businesses, communities, and cultures that rely on the intact fishery, among various other issues. 

“Thousands of us have looked forward to this day for well over a decade,” said Brian Kraft, owner of Alaska Sportsman’s Lodge, president of Katmai Service Providers and a Trout Unlimited business member. “The world-renowned spawning grounds of the Bristol Bay region are simply no place for large, industrial, open-pit mining operations. Kudos to this Administration for seeing this project for what it was—a half-baked and risky proposal that does not belong in the heart of Bristol Bay. This is a good day. We should all celebrate and be thankful today, and get ready to achieve long-term protections next.” 

The final Environmental Impact Statement documented nearly 200 miles of impacted streams, 4,500 acres of impacted waters and wetlands (See FEIS at 4.22-15, Table 4.22-1.). The Army Corps said the function of the tailings facility was “uncertain,”, and the Corps’ EIS contractor described it as “very similar” to the facility that failed catastrophically at the Mount Polley mine in 2014.  

“I am relieved and thankful,” said Nanci Morris Lyon, resident of King Salmon, Alaska, and owner of Bear Trail Lodge. “This is the right call. The message is as clear today as it ever was: Pebble is not welcome in Bristol Bay. Now we can work toward the future without the shadow of Pebble hanging over our heads. We look forward to working with our Senators to make sure this is lasting.” 

“Thank you to all who came together and made their voices heard to keep one of the world’s great watersheds pristine. Today, Bristol Bay, Alaska, is one step closer to being a protected American treasure that sustains local communities and industries and that outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy and experience for generations to come,” said Orvis President, Simon Perkins. 


Statement of Northwest Program Director Bonnie Gestring

The Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) issued its Record of Decision today, denying the proposed Pebble Mine, a massive copper and gold mine in Bristol Bay Alaska that threatens the world’s largest and most valuable wild salmon fishery. 

“Pebble tried every trick in the book to push this project through, but the crystal clear science prevailed. Pebble would have devastating consequences for the world’s largest wild salmon fishery and all those that depend on it.   Alaska’s Bristol Bay is no place for a massive mining operation.  The Biden Administration should take the next step and use the Clean Water Act to place permanent limits on mining in Bristol Bay to protect the salmon fishery and the communities that depend on it.” — Bonnie Gestring

The Natural Resources Defense Council:

The following is a statement from Joel Reynolds, senior attorney with the Nature Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“Amen to certainty for this cherished area, the tribes and community of Bristol Bay, and its wildlife and waters. This region has been whip-sawed with uncertainty about its fate for a decade, and this move recognizes there was never any way to mitigate the harm Pebble Mine would do.  

“The next step is for the Environmental Protection Agency to use section 404c of the Clean Water Act to permanently protect this national treasure from large scale mining for all time.”

Update: More reaction, starting with the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership:

(Washington D.C.)—The Army Corps of Engineers today officially denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay, Alaska handing sportsmen and sportswomen a big win in the region. 

The Army Corps said in a statement the mine’s plan “does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines” and said the “project is contrary to the public interest.” 

“We thank the Corps for doing the right thing: blocking a mine that would cause irreversible damage to the Bristol Bay watershed and one of the world’s greatest salmon fisheries,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Now we need to look for permanent solutions that protect this area and the outdoor recreation economy in perpetuity.” 

TRCP and the American Sportfishing Association launched a TV ad on Fox News in August urging the president to oppose the Pebble Mine and protect the thousands of jobs that rely on this world-renowned salmon fishery. This follows up on more than two decades of work trying to stop the mine by a diverse coalition of conservationists, anglers, hunters, local businesses, and Alaska-Native tribes.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay:

DILLINGHAM, AK – Bristol Bay Tribes and others are celebrating today’s news that the Army Corps of Engineers will deny Pebble’s major federal permit, as the decision reflects the sound science and overwhelming public opposition to this toxic project.
Today’s welcome news also bolsters Bristol Bay’s decades long call for permanent protections to the Bristol Bay Watershed. While the Pebble Partnership has suffered a major setback, the threat of toxic large-scale hard rock mining will continue to loom over Bristol Bay until permanent protections are secured for the region.

Future generations should not have to live with the threat of mining developments that would devastate our cultures, communities, and existing economies. We must ensure that Bristol Bay’s pristine lands and waters are protected in perpetuity. The fact that this permit denial comes from a pro-development administration speaks volumes to the need for strong, permanent protections for the Bristol Bay watershed and all it sustains.
UTBB Board President Robert Heyano made the following statement:

“The people of Bristol Bay have long known that our home is no place for a mine like Pebble. Today, we celebrate the appropriate action taken by the USACE in finally acknowledging this underlying truth: Pebble’s proposal is too toxic for our region and cannot be built without devastating the environment that sustains our cultures and communities. But our work is not done. We will continue to advocate for permanent protections for Bristol Bay until we are sure that our pristine lands and waters will remain intact for our children’s children and all future generations. A big quyana to all those who have worked to stop this toxic project and to those who will continue to fight for Bristol Bay.”

From our pal Mark Titus, director of the films The Breach and The Wild:

What a massive victory for the Yupik; Dena’ina and Aleutian People – and all residents of Bristol Bay who have fought for 3 decades to keep a toxic low-grade-sulphur mine out of the headwaters of their life-giving salmon rivers!!!

This is also a testament to the blood sweat and tears of the following people and groups who have partnered with The Wild and Eva’s Wild and gave their all to save what they love in Bristol Bay:

United Tribes of Bristol Bay
Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association
Far Star Action Fund
Linda and David Cornfield
Lisa Manning
Tom Douglas Restaurants 
Trout Unlimited 
Salmon State
Defend Bristol Bay
Nanci Morris Lyon
Rick Halford
Bear Trail Lodge
Chris Boatright
University of Washington Alaska Fisheries Program
Daniel Schindler
Ray Hilborn
Jackie Carter
Commercial Fishermen For Bristol Bay
Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC)
Alaska Wilderness League
Friends of McNeil River
National Wildlife Federation
The Nature Conservancy
Slow Food
Salmon Nation
One Fish Foundation
Wild For Salmon
Cook Inletkeeper
Salmon Sisters
Paul Greenberg
Renee Erickson
Salmon State
Sitka Salmon Shares
Wild Salmon Center

This is a small fraction of the human beings who have given their hearts and life-force to protect Bristol Bay. If you’ve supported or watched The Wild – or sent a note to Congress or the EPA or the Army Corps – or eaten wild Bristol Bay Sockeye Salmon – YOU are a part ofd this victory today!  
Thank you.

Here’s some more Twitter reaction: