Northern Dynasty Minerals responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) draft document about a hypothetical mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay with a 205-page submission that called the draft document and the process to complete it “biased, manipulative and contrary to EPA’s own guidelines.”
The EPA’s revised assessment, which is not based on mine plans submitted for the Pebble Project, states that a large mine could have a number of adverse effects on the area, even without a catastrophic event such as an earthquake, the Alaska Dispatch reported.
Opponents of the mine, including several federally recognized tribes and others who requested the EPA study, note that the Bristol Bay watershed already is an economic powerhouse, providing some 14,000 jobs and a $1.5 billion seafood industry. Development of such a massive mine at this location could have potential devastating effects on the fishery, they say.
EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran acknowledged that the revised document generally affirms conclusions reached last year in the initial report.
Still the EPA is a long way from its final decision on whether to stop the mine by employing provisions of the Clear Water Act. McLerran has said the agency “has made no decision about if or how it might use our authority under the Clean Water Act, or other laws, to protect Bristol Bay.”
Northern Dynasty Minerals, of Vancouver, British Columbia, is a co-owner with Anglo American plc, a British multinational mining company based in London, of the Pebble Limited Partnership, created in 2007, with offices in Anchorage, Alaska.
The proposed mine, the partnership says, will be built and operated with the highest environmental and mining standards, and co-exist with the multi-million dollar commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries of Bristol Bay.
Until they have released their specific plans for the project, they argue, judgment on whether it will meet the required environmental criteria should be withheld, they argue, because the EPA, for one, does not have a real plan from which to judge.
Less than a week earlier, the Pebble Partnership released an economic study (ME, June 1) paid for by the partnership contending that developing Pebble “could have significant economic impacts to the state of Alaska including an estimated $136 to $180 million in annual taxes and royalties, annual expenditures that could place the operation among the top tier companies in the state, and an estimated 600 percent increase in new tax revenue for the Lake and Peninsula Borough.”
In April, the Pebble Partnership announced an $80 million budget for the 2013 season, adding to millions already spent on environmental research alone.
Ronald Thiessen, president and chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty Minerals, alleged in his criticism of the revised document, that it suffers from the same major shortcomings as the original report published in May 2012. “In particular, EPA continues to assess the environmental effects of a hypothetical mine of its own invention, one that does not employ modern engineering standards, environmental safeguards or project-specific mitigation measures and could not be permitted under U.S. or Alaska law,” Thiessen told the Alaska Dispatch.
The deadline for submitting public comment on the revised Bristol Bay watershed assessment is June 30.
The document can be viewed here.