The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has accepted an appeal request from the developer of the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Southwest Alaska, keeping alive the company’s hopes that it could one day see the project developed after the Corps denied the project a key permit last year.
The Corps also rejected the state of Alaska’s request for an appeal, prompting a response from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who said that the rejection sets a precedent that could put other projects on state land at risk.
“This is another example of the federal government imposing a flawed decision that blocks Alaska’s ability to responsibly develop its land and resources,” Dunleavy said in a statement issued Friday.
The Corps’ Alaska District in November, under then-President Donald Trump, denied a permit for the project, calling it “contrary to the public interest.”
The project faces strong opposition in the Bristol Bay region and elsewhere, amid concerns that it would damage the wild salmon fishery. It also faces increased political headwinds after the release of the so-called “Pebble Tapes” last year, secretly recorded video conversations put out by an environmental group that led the project’s then-CEO, Tom Collier, to resign.
Pebble and the state each asked the Corps to reconsider the denial.
The Pacific Ocean Division of the Corps, located in Hawaii, is handling the appeal. Pebble’s appeal met the criteria for acceptance, according to an emailed statement from Luciano Vera, a spokesperson with the division.
The State of Alaska does not meet the definition of an “affected party,” Vera said.
The Corps sets a goal of completing the appeal process within 90 days, Vera said. In this case, the appeal could go much longer, he said.
“Given the volume and complexity of the information to consider for this particular appeal, it is expected that the process will extend well beyond 90 days to allow for the time necessary to reach an independent and fair decision on the merits of this appeal,” Vera said. “That expectation notwithstanding, the Pacific Ocean Division remains committed to working as efficiently as possible to reach an objective and fair decision on the merits of this appeal.”
The Corps on Monday declined to immediately provide the Daily News with its acceptance letter to Pebble, or its rejection letter to the state.
Pebble parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals said in a statement last week it believes the permit denial is unlawful.
Before he was elected, President Joe Biden said he would move to stop the project from ever being developed.
Conservation groups are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to halt Pebble, an effort carried out under former President Barack Obama but never completed.
“The State of Alaska needs to accept the reality that a majority of Alaskans, except Governor Dunleavy, have stood behind for decades: the Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, in a statement on Monday.