Pebble Project passes key milestone
Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the lead federal regulator for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) permitting process for the Pebble Project, has announced a preferred development alternative for the proposed copper-gold-molybdenum-silvermine in southwest Alaska that includes an all-land based transportation route.
During a media availability session on May 22, 2020, Alaska District Regulatory Division Chief David Hobbie confirmed the USACE has selected the ‘least environmentally damaging practicable alternative’ for the proposed Pebble Mine. The all land-based transportation route would connect the proposed mine site to a port site on Cook Inlet via an ~85-mile road north of Lake Iliamna, thereby avoiding the need for ferry transport across the lake. Northern Dynasty President & CEO Ron Thiessen said the ‘northern transportation corridor’ has been extensively studied by the Pebble Limited Partnership and presents several compelling benefits over the lake ferry options.
If permitted Pebble would be the largest mine in North America mine, with an estimate resource of 6.5 Gt (7.1 billion st) in the measured and indicated category containing 57 billion pounds of copper and 71 million ounces of gold, 3.4 billion pounds of molybdenum and 345 million silver ounces.
“From a cost perspective, the various transportation alternatives evaluated as part of the Pebble EIS over the past several years are similar,” he said. “We had thought the slightly smaller wetlands footprint associated with the lake ferry alternatives might make them preferable to the USACE and other regulatory agencies, but they clearly have judged an all land-based route to be superior from an environmental perspective.
“It’s a decision we welcome and accept. There are clear operational benefits associated with a single mode transportation system versus multi-mode, and we’re confident the northern corridor can be built and operated safely in partnership with local villages and landowners.” Thiessen said the Pebble Partnership intends to work with each of the landowners along the northern corridor, and believes it will secure the authorizations needed to build and operate the transportation system. Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier confirmed the US Army Corps of Engineers contacted Pebble several weeks ago to request that it formally modify its project description to reflect the ‘northern transportation corridor.’
Collier said the Pebble Partnership was focused entirely on advancing transportation alternatives associated with lake ferry operations until contacted by the USACE several weeks ago. Notwithstanding the recent change, he said Pebble has studied the ‘northern transportation corridor’ for more than a dozen years, and expects no planning or permitting delays associated with its selection as the LEDPA.
The northern transportation corridor has the added benefit of including a pipeline to transport copper-gold and molybdenum concentrates from the mine site to the port site, thereby reducing truck traffic in the region by about half.