Pebble Mine owners discuss delay in appeals process

Published on
August 20, 2021

Northern Dynasty Minerals announced this week that its appeal of the Pebble Mine decision is receiving new oversight and is likely to take a year or longer.

In November 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected the mining company’s permit application to build Pebble Mine at the headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay under its subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership, following a battle with local residents, Native tribes and fishing stakeholders that spanned three decades.

The mining company submitted its appeal of the decision in January, and now the Corps has assigned a new review officer to the appeal, after the prior review officer was promoted out of the position, according to a release from Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ronald Thiessen.

The release notes that “guidelines indicate the administrative appeal process should conclude within 90 days.” However, “the Pebble Partnership has been advised that the administrative appeal process for Pebble is likely to take a year or more given the complexity of the case and the scope of the administrative record.”

“We have been, and continue to be, very concerned about the USACE’s schedule and timeline for advancing our administrative appeal of the Pebble permitting decision, as we believe this does not accord with regulation,” Thiessen said.

Meanwhile, opponents of Pebble Mine are using all avenues to protect the region’s salmon fishery, reveling in another record this year, when nearly 66 million sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay’s river complex to spawn. The last record was set in 2018 at nearly 63 million. 

“Bristol Bay is a shining example that healthy ecosystems can and still do still exist,”  Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association Executive Director Andy Wink said. “It’s really an ecological treasure. We ask that state and federal government protect Bristol Bay salmon and the natural habitats that allow it to thrive.”

Pedro Bay Corp., a Native organization in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, announced in late May that nearly 90 percent of its shareholders voted in favor of conservation easements for more than 44,000 of the corporation’s 92,100 acres of land in southwest Alaska. The agreement would make the land off-limits to development, including Pebble Corp.’s proposed mining road.

Supporters are also urging Congress and the Biden administration to take final action to protect the region through two options: Clean water Act Protections that use the EPA's authority to veto the pebble mine, and the establishement of a protected fisheries area by Congress. 

“For two decades, the people of Bristol Bay have fought to protect our home from the threat of mines like Pebble because we recognize that our clean waters and lands are more precious than gold,” United Tribes of Bristol Bay Board President Robert Heyano said. “Pebble ignored the people of Bristol Bay at every step of the way, and continues to try to use politics and lies to advance this project and manipulate investors. Enough is enough. We need permanent protections that will provide us with certainty that projects like Pebble will never be allowed to devastate every facet of life in Bristol Bay.”

Reporting by Jessica Hathaway

Photo courtesy of Save Bristol Bay

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