Pebble Limited Partnership remains confident in mine's future in Bristol Bay

Nov 4, 2021

In wake of a recent revival of a tool of the Clean Water Act that could permanently block projects like Pebble from being developed in Bristol Bay, the company claims that the mine will not harm the fishery or impact water quality.

A site near the proposed location for Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay.
Credit Jason Sear KDLG

 

  

 

Pebble Limited Partnership maintains that there is still a future for the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, despite a recent revival of a tool of the Clean Water Act that could permanently block projects like Pebble from being developed in Bristol Bay -- Section 404c of the act.

A U.S. District Court ruling Friday allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to officially restart a process to consider permanent protections for Bristol Bay. That reverses a 2019 decision by the Trump administration, which withdrew the EPA’s 2014 proposal for protections.

In an email, Pebble spokesperson Mike Heatwole said:

“It is important to note that the previous EPA action was based on a flawed, hypothetical scenario and not on an actual, detailed mine plan as was submitted for permitting by the Pebble Partnership to the United States Army Corps of Engineers.”

A map of the Bristol Bay watershed by the EPA.
Credit Courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

In 2014 the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a “preemptive veto” of a larger mine in the area under section 404c, based on the agency’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment.

The company also maintains that the Army Corps’ 2020 environmental impact statement of the mine was proof that development of the mine would not “harm the Bristol Bay fishery” and would have “no impact on water quality.” It also states that it would be an economic boon for the region.

Despite those claims, the Army Corps of Engineers denied a federal permit for Pebble in 2020. That was after determining that the plan for the mine would not comply with the Clean Water Act, and that the project is not in the public interest.

Going forward, Heatwole says that the company will “continue to work with the state of Alaska and the EPA to demonstrate facts and technical information about Pebble.”

A digital simulation of the proposed mine's foundation if it were built.
Credit U.S Army Corps of Engineers

Heatwole adds that the company remains focused on its appeal of the Army Corps’ decision to deny a permit. The Corps is currently reviewing the company’s appeal. Governor Mike Dunleavy also filed an appeal in January and said that denial of the permit could set a “dangerous precedent” for future resource development in Alaska. The Corps denied that request in march.

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200