The Pebble mine in Alaska was dealt a potentially lethal blow after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected an essential permit for the project.
The proposed mine in southwestern Alaska, which would tap one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, has been dogged by protests for years, as conservationists warn industrial mining operations near Bristol Bay threaten a flourishing sockeye salmon fishery.
The Army Corps issued a record of decision Wednesday denying Pebble’s permit, after determining the project “is contrary to the public interest,” said Col. Damon Delarosa, the agency’s Alaska district commander.
In August, the Army Corps concluded the mining plan from
Northern Dynasty called the decision “politically motivated” and said it was not supported by the Corps’ recently released environmental impact statement. The company said it intends to launch an appeal within 60 days. Developers also could challenge the rejection in federal court.
Delarosa said the Army Corps’ decision was “based on all available facts and complies with existing laws and regulations,” following “an in-depth analysis” of the project and roughly three years of review.
Pebble is in a remote area in southwestern Alaska that drains into Bristol Bay. Conservationists, local activists and fishing operations have fought the project for years, citing potential
The decision was heralded by Alaska’s two Republican senators,
But there were also voices in opposition. “Canceling Pebble Mine is disastrous for the unemployed and destitute people in southwest Alaska who need the high-paying jobs and economic activity the mine would provide for many decades,” said
If developed, the mine would be one of the largest producers of both copper and gold in the U.S., according to a recent presentation by Northern Dynasty, potentially producing an average of about 318 million pounds of copper, 1.8 million ounces of silver and 362,000 ounces of gold annually over a 20-year mine life.
Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, a group dedicated to protecting Alaska’s salmon habitat, heralded the move Wednesday.
“Sometimes a project is so bad, so indefensible, that the politics fall to the wayside and we get the right decision,” Bristol said.
“How many other projects are strongly opposed by both Alaskan senators, by 80% of the people that live in the region, by commercial fishermen, by recreational fishermen, by Donald Trump Jr., and by Jane Fonda?” said
The project took a further public-relations blow in September after the release of covertly taped comments revealed a top mining executive boasting of his ties to state and federal leaders. The so-called Pebble Tapes incensed the project’s critics and led to the
Regardless of the Army Corps’ verdict, conservationists are pressing the
“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, Northwest program director of environmental group Earthworks, said in a statement.
--With assistance from
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