Army Corps denies permit appeal by Pebble mine developer

The U.S. Army Corps on Monday rejected a permitting appeal by Pebble Limited Partnership, another setback for the copper and gold prospect in Southwest Alaska.

The Corps in 2020 had denied a permit for the project. That led to an appeal by Pebble and an additional review by the Corps.

The Corps said in a statement on Monday that it is denying the appeal based on another federal agency’s decision to reject the project.

The Environmental Protection Agency in 2023 invoked a little-used power under the Clean Water Act to veto the mine on the grounds that it would cause “unacceptable, adverse” harm to the valuable Bristol Bay salmon fishery. The decision trumped the standard federal permitting process that was playing out before the Corps.

The Corps said it has determined “that the EPA veto is a controlling factor, and the application is denied without prejudice,” according to the statement.

Mike Heatwole, a spokesperson with Pebble, said the Corps decision on Monday was not based on the merits of the technical issues that Pebble raised in its appeal.

“At this time we are evaluating the Corps decision and reviewing next steps for the project,” Heatwole said in an emailed statement.


The Pebble deposit sits on state land about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, near the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery.

Supporters of the project say the mineral deposit could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars and brightens Alaska’s economic outlook. Opponents say it could destroy valuable Alaska fisheries worth about $2 billion annually.

In March, Pebble filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency to overturn its decision to halt the mine.

The Dunleavy administration last week also sued the agency, claiming that the EPA’s overly broad restrictions halted a development opportunity on state land. The suits were filed in U.S. District Court in Alaska.

Pebble and the Dunleavy administration this year have also filed takings claims for the EPA decision, seeking compensation in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, based in Washington, D.C.

Pebble is seeking compensation after noting it has spent more than $1 billion on the prospect. The state is seeking compensation of more than $700 billion related to the potential value of the mineral resources affected by the EPA decision.

Pebble’s “current focus is on our litigation contesting the EPA action against the project,” Heatwole said Tuesday.

The Corps in 2020 said the mining plan would cause significant degradation to an important watershed in the region and is “contrary to the public interest.” But the Corps agreed to accept the company’s appeal for reconsideration after the agency determined that portions of Pebble’s request had merit.

The Corps in the 14-page denial on Monday said the EPA created prohibitions and restrictions that leave “no available areas” for the mining project to dispose of “dredged or fill material.”

Nelli Williams, Alaska program director of Trout Unlimited, said Tuesday that opponents of the mine want to enhance protections for the Bristol Bay region to add another layer to stop future projects such as Pebble.

“The Pebble Limited Partnership’s 2020 mine plan didn’t meet basic standards, was widely opposed by Alaskans, and posed significant risks,” Williams said. “The hunting and angling community, and leaders from across the political spectrum, widely applauded the permit denial in 2020 and we commend the Army Corps of Engineers for standing by its permit denial decision.”

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or