The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will proceed with an environmental review of the proposed Pebble project in Alaska despite a request from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker to halt the review.
The Associated Press reported that the governor and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott signed a letter in June that argued that Northern Dynasty Minerals, the company behind the Pebble project,yet to show that the proposed copper and gold mine is feasible or realistic. They argued that, at a minimum, a preliminary economic assessment should be conducted to help inform the corps' work.
But Shane McCoy, the corps' program manager for the Pebble review, told reporters that an economic analysis is not one of the required pieces of information that the corps needs to conduct its work.
There are limited situations in which a review would be halted, including cases in which an applicant itself asks to stop or if an applicant fails to provide the corps requested information, McCoy said. Walker's request was not one that the corps could grant under its rules, he said.
The Pebble Limited Partnership, which wants to develop the Pebble mine, has given no indication that it wants to suspend the process, McCoy said.
The corps' position was explained to Walker directly by the commander of the Alaska district, Col. Michael Brooks, he said. Austin Baird, a spokesman for Walker, confirmed that Brooks and Walker spoke and Brooks indicated that he "would not honor the governor's request."
Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble partnership, last month said the company believes that it can "successfully and responsibly" operate the mine. "This is what the Corps will evaluate and we can either meet this expectation or we cannot," he said in a statement.
Collier called Walker's request to suspend the review process a stall tactic.
The Pebble partnership is owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., which has been looking for a partner since Anglo American PLC announced it was pulling out in 2013.
First Quantum Minerals Ltd. was courted as a potential investor but backed away from the project in May. The company at the time offered no public comment as to why.
The corps has no opinion on the financial status of the Pebble partnership, McCoy said. "We presume that they have the resources available to continue the process until such time they tell us they don't," he said.