The Pebble Partnership, a coalition of companies led by Northern Dynasty Minerals and Anglo American, working to develop the copper and gold Pebble Project in Alaska has not yet applied for permits to develop the mine project, yet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already issued a three-volume report on the impact the mine could possibly have on the nearby Bristol Bay watershed system.
The timing of the report was unusual and according to Northern Dynasty Minerals vice president, Sean McGee, it was based “substantially upon advocacy materials prepared by environmental groups to inform its science.”
The proposed mine is located where the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers intersect. The EPA has been campaigning to secure the primary Clean Water Act permitting authority for Pebble, which could potentially mine 81 million lbs of copper, 107 million oz of gold and 6 billion lbs of molybdenum.
McGhee, speaking during an EPA public hearing on its watershed assessment document on May 31, said, “Northern Dynasty also has serious concerns about the extent to which this report is based on the findings of two previous reports prepared by environmental activists. We are still conducting our review, and fully intend to provide our critique to the EPA, to the independent peer review panel once it is formed, as well to public and media audiences.
“Ultimately, no one can make meaningful judgments about Pebble and the effects it may have on fish and water in southwest Alaska before the project is designed, proposed and evaluated under the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA,” he said. “We strongly encourage the EPA to slow down this process...to provide for longer and more meaningful public review ...and to commit to using the best science available to assess the risks and opportunities associated with Pebble, rather than rushing ahead with a study that is premature and fails to meet government’s own standards for ‘good science’ in the public interest.”
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, asked the EPA to schedule hearings on the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment including the May 31 hearing in Seattle. Seven other hearings are scheduled in the state of Alaska June 4-7.
In a May 30, 2012, letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Cantwell said, “The draft assessment provides a clear scientific basis for the concerns of thousands of Alaska and Washington fishermen and many other stakeholders that large scale mining development in the Bristol Bay watershed-like the proposed Pebble Mine-could have devastating impacts on ecosystems that support millions of wild salmon and tens of thousands of jobs which rely on them.”