The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will withdraw restrictions on the proposed Pebble Project that were put in place by the Obama administration.
The announcement sent shares of Northern Dynasty Minerals soaring by 67 percent.
Under former U.S. President Barack Obama, the EPA in 2014 proposed limits on large-scale mining in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, citing environmental concerns. The decision on July 30 helps pave the way for the development of the largest undeveloped gold and copper resource in the world owned by Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, Reuters reported.
Northern Dynasty’s site is near Lake Iliamna in southwestern Alaska between the headwaters of two rivers that drain into Bristol Bay, and is known for its huge salmon runs, wilderness and abundant brown bears.
The Pebble Mine is expected to produce 70 million tons of gold, molybdenum and copper ore per year and create a pit 600 m (1,970 ft) deep.
“Today’s announcement means the Environmental Impact Statement and permitting process for the Pebble Project currently being led by the US Army Corps of Engineers may advance to a final Record of Decision in 2020 without the cloud of uncertainty created by EPA’s unprecedented, pre-emptive regulatory action,” said Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen said in a statement. “The corps expects to finalize the Pebble EIS in early 2020 and issue a final Record of Decision by the middle of next year.
The proposed restrictions were based on hypothetical scenarios that were different from Northern Dynasty’s submitted permit application, the EPA said in a statement, adding the company will still need to go through the permit application process.
Shares of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty surged to close up 67 percent at C$1.20, their highest level since March.
“Finally, this Administration has reversed the outrageous federal government overreach inflicted on the State of Alaska by the Obama Administration,” Tom Collier, chief executive of Pebble Partnership, owned by Northern Dynasty, said in a statement.
Development of the mine, near one of the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fisheries, has been fiercely opposed by environmentalists, native groups and fishermen for years.
“After today’s action EPA will focus on the permit review process for the Pebble Mine project” Region 10 Administrator Chris Hladick said in a statement.
“The agency has worked closely with the Army Corps to engage with stakeholders and the public on this issue, which has resulted in an expansive public record, including specific information about the proposed mining project that did not exist in 2014,” Hladick added.