Opposition Voiced As Northern Dynasty Announces Pebble Decision Appeal (Updating)
From Governor Mike Dunleavy to parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals, the pushback to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to deny a permit for the Pebble Mine.
Northern Dynasty released its appeal statement today:
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (TSX: NDM; NYSE American: NAK) (“Northern Dynasty” or the “Company”) reports that its 100%-owned, US-based subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership (the “Pebble Partnership”) has formally submitted a ‘request for appeal’ (“RFA”) to the US Army Corps of Engineers (“USACE”) with respect to its recent issuance of a negative Record of Decision (“ROD”) for Alaska’s Pebble Project.
The USACE published a final Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the proposed copper-gold- molybdenum-silver-rhenium mine in July 2020, finding that Pebble would “not have measurable effects” on fish populations or fisheries in southwest Alaska. Despite this, the lead federal regulator published a ROD on November 25, 2020 denying Pebble a key permit under the Clean Water Act on the grounds that its ‘compensatory mitigation plan’ (“CMP”) is non-compliant and the project is not in the ‘public interest.’
The Pebble Partnership submitted its RFA to the USACE’s Pacific Ocean Division Engineer in Hawaii this week, in advance of the 60-day deadline following the permitting decision. The USACE has 30 days from receipt to notify the Pebble Partnership as to whether its RFA is complete. USACE guidelines indicate the administrative appeal process should conclude within 90 days, although it may be extended under certain circumstances.
Northern Dynasty believes that key aspects of the USACE’s ROD and permitting decision – including its ‘significant degradation’ finding, its ‘public interest review’ findings and its perfunctory rejection of Pebble’s CMP – are contrary to law, unprecedented in Alaska and fundamentally unsupported by the administrative record, including the Pebble Project EIS.
Additional details about the Pebble Partnership’s RFA submission will be released in the days and weeks ahead.
One of the first reactions to the official appeal intentions was from United Tribes of Bristol Bay:
DILLINGHAM, AK – Today’s news that the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) filed an unfounded appeal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) permit denial is just the latest in a long saga of the company’s disgraceful attempts to push their unwanted toxic mine on Bristol Bay.
In late 2020, the USACE rightfully determined that Pebble’s proposal is not in the public interest and poses far too great of a risk to our waters and all they sustain. More than two decades of scientific study and review have proven that this mine cannot be safely developed at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. It is time for this toxic endeavor to end. This appeal is just the latest disgraceful attempt to force an unwelcome project on the people, lands, and waters of Bristol Bay.
“For two decades, the people of Bristol Bay have fought to protect our home from the threat of mines like Pebble because we recognize that our clean waters and lands are more precious than gold,” said UTBB Board President Robert Heyano. “Pebble ignored the people of Bristol Bay at every step of the way, and continues to try to use politics and lies to advance this project and manipulate investors. Enough is enough. We need permanent protections that will provide us with certainty that projects like Pebble will never be allowed to devastate every facet of life in Bristol Bay.”
“Pebble Mine threatens Bristol Bay’s abundant natural resources and the Yup’ik, Dena’ina and Alutiiq cultures that have thrived in this region since time immemorial. The EPA needs to establish Clean Water Act protections so that our people can move forward and continue developing our sustainable economy without the dark cloud of this toxic project looming over our communities,” said UTBB Deputy Director Lindsay Layland.
United Tribes of Bristol Bay and other Bristol Bay organizations have called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish Clean Water Act protections to ensure Pebble and mines like it can no longer threaten Bristol Bay’s sustainable natural resources and robust future.
Update with reaction from Trout Unlimited:
In response to the ‘Request for Appeal’ sent today by Northern Dynasty Minerals to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ regarding the agency’s decision to deny the 404 permit for the proposed Pebble mine, Nelli Williams, Alaska director of Trout Unlimited, issued the following statement:
“This is a desperate attempt by a morally bankrupt company to remain viable. The decision to deny Pebble’s permit was based on hundreds of thousands of public comments, a formal process upheld by Pebble itself, and clear science that shows the project cannot be built without destroying the clean water and abundant salmon populations that make the Bristol Bay region so special.”
“It is important we all continue to work for durable protections for the region so we don’t have to deal with these antics in the future.”
Another update from SalmonState:
ANCHORAGE—The Pebble Partnership’s plea today that the Army Corps of Engineers reverse its denial of the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act dredge and fill permit highlights the need for durable, long-term, lasting protections for the Bristol Bay region, as well as the need for an EPA veto of the proposed Pebble Mine itself.
“While science prevailed when the Army Corps rejected the proposed Pebble Mine’s Clean Water Act permit, this appeal shows that the Trump Administration left the door open for the Pebble Partnership and Bristol Bay is far from safe,” said SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol. “The first step is for the Biden Administration to reestablish the Clean Water Act Protections previously in place. The second step is for Congress to protect the waters of Bristol Bay in perpetuity, as called for in Bristol Bay Tribes’ and organizations’ ‘Call to Protect Bristol Bay’.”
Bristol Bay is the world’s greatest sockeye salmon run, providing more than 50 percent of the world’s sockeye salmon supply. For the last six years in a row, it has seen more than 50 million salmon return, with several of those returns record breaking.
Meanwhile, the Pebble Partnership has been pursuing a massive, open-pit gold, copper and molybdenum mine at the headwaters of these pristine river systems for almost two decades. After scientific study and careful consideration, in 2014, the EPA proposed protections for the surrounding waters from toxic waste and destruction from large-scale development of the mine. At the start of the Trump Administration, however, then-Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier had a private, closed-door meeting with then EPA-administrator Scott Pruitt. As a result of that meeting, the EPA withdrew its own proposed protections, which had been requested by Bristol Bay Tribes and fishermen, and strongly supported by Alaskans across the state and millions of Americans. Shortly afterwards, Pebble applied for a permit.
Last September, Collier and Northern Dynasty Minerals (Pebble’s parent company) CEO Ron Thiessen were caught on tape bragging about their cozy relationships with Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy, the White House, Army Corps officials and Alaska politicians, and expressing confidence that their political relationships would help grease them through the permitting process. They also revealed that their actual plans for the mine were not for the 20-year mine plan they had proposed, but, instead, for a 200-year mine that would result in more than 10 billion tons of toxic waste being stored behind an earthen dam at the headwaters of Bristol Bay forever.
“The proposed Pebble Mine is a toxic, region-killing project proposed and promoted by people who have proven, with their own words, that they are liars who were relying on cozy political relationships to outweigh the documented fact that Pebble would irreparably harm Bristol Bay,” Bristol said. “Even their own investors have sued them for lying. The only way to prevent Pebble from dragging Alaskans through this broken, fatally flawed ‘process’ yet again is for the EPA to follow its own scientific recommendations and to veto the project, and for legislators to follow the leadership of the Tribes, fishermen, and residents of Bristol Bay, and protect its waters in perpetuity. We urge President Biden and Congress to act swiftly and decisively to enact lasting protections for this one-of-a-kind American treasure, which is home to a vibrant Indigenous culture, provides more than 14,000 American jobs, and produces more wild salmon than anywhere else in the world.”
And one more from the Natural Resources Defense Council:
The Pebble Limited Partnership is looking to appeal the denial of a permit for Alaska’s Pebble Mine under the Clean Water Act. The company, the US subsidiary of Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals, has submitted a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The following is a statement from Taryn Kiekow Heimer, senior advocate for the Nature program at NRDC (the Natural Resources Defense Council):
“This Hail Mary is no surprise coming from a company that has run out of options. On the merits, this appeal is a loser.
“The Army Corps had solid scientific, substantive, and legal reasons for denying the permit. That was the only rational outcome, given its own projection regarding the mine’s “significant degradation” of 3,650 acres of wetlands and 185 miles of streams. Pebble’s mitigation plan was absurd, and the Army Corps rightly found it didn’t pass the laugh test. You simply can’t mitigate the destruction of thousands of acres of wetlands and hundreds of miles of streams—especially with empty promises.
“NRDC supports the “Call to Protect Bristol Bay”–a vision Tribal and business leaders from Bristol Bay developed, calling on EPA to permanently protect the region. The public and Tribes overwhelmingly oppose this toxic project, and they will prevail. “
In July, the Army Corps issued an environmental impact statement, downplaying the effect the project would have on the region. The Corps in November denied Pebble a permit under the Clean Water Act.