Alaska News

EPA proposes restrictions in fight over Pebble mine

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing restrictions that would hinder plans for a copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, the latest in a long-running dispute over efforts by developers to advance a mine in a region known for its salmon runs.

The EPA in a statement said the proposal would bar discharges of dredged or fill material into the waters of the U.S. within the mine site footprint proposed by the developer, the Pebble Limited Partnership. The federal agency said it took into account information that has become available since it previously proposed restricting development in 2014, including new scientific analyses and a mine plan from the Pebble partnership that was submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a permit application.

The EPA during the Obama administration proposed but never finalized restrictions on development. The Pebble partnership called those proposed restrictions unfair, arguing they were based on hypothetical mine plans and that the project should have a chance to go through the permitting process.

The Pebble partnership, which is owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., is appealing a 2020 corps decision that denied approval of a key permit for the project in southwest Alaska. The corps’ Pacific Ocean Division is handling the appeal.

A division spokesperson, Luciano Vera, earlier this month said the corps did not have a timeline for releasing a decision but was “committed to working as efficiently as possible to reach an objective and fair decision on the merits of this appeal.”

Critics of the proposed Pebble Mine have been pressing the EPA to provide protections for the Bristol Bay region. President Joe Biden as a candidate in 2020 said if elected he would “protect Bristol Bay.”

The EPA says it will take comments on its latest proposal.