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Pebble Partnership copper gold molybdenum mine project Alaska Northern Dynasty NAK NDM

By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Partners roll Pebble toward permitting

With a US$107M budget, developers plan to produce a project description by year's end; permitting could to begin as early as 2013


Last updated 5/27/2012 at Noon

The Pebble Limited Partnership has approved a budget of about US$107 million to advance the enormous Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum project in 2012, with the objective of readying to initiate permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Work programs for the coming months will include ongoing environmental studies focused on fish and marine resources; water quality and groundwater hydrology; continued engineering analysis to finalize a project description; geotechnical and exploration drilling; and work force and business development initiatives.

Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively underscores the employment opportunities these ongoing work programs bring to Southwest Alaska.

"Our site work program is where our local and regional opportunities are realized - this is all about putting people to work and potentially the significant socioeconomic benefits this project could bring to the region, which struggles with elevated unemployment numbers, a lack of year-round jobs and outmigration to urban areas" said Shively.

The Pebble Partnership was established in July 2007 as a 50-50 partnership between Vancouver B.C.-based Northern Dynasty and London-based Anglo American plc.

Under the terms of the Pebble Limited Partnership Agreement, Anglo American is required to invest US$1.5 billion in order to retain its 50 percent interest in the Pebble project.

From the time that the Pebble Partnership was established through the end of 2012, the London-based global miner will have invested some US$500 million to complete the exploration, engineering, environmental and socioeconomic studies needed to prepare the enormous copper-gold-molybdenum project for permitting.

"We will continue our work to develop a responsible plan for Pebble that meets our commitment to co-existing with the fish resources," said Shively.

In February, the Pebble Partnership published a long-anticipated environmental baseline document for Pebble - a major milestone on the path to initiate permitting of the mammoth deposit situated in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska, a process estimated to begin by mid-2013.

"Following the completion and release of the 27,000-page Pebble Environmental Baseline Document earlier this year, the Pebble Partnership is now focused on finalizing the other principal document required to trigger permitting under NEPA - a project description," said Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ronald Thiessen. "After years of methodical and intensive geological, environmental, socioeconomic and engineering study, we are now finalizing a proposed design for the Pebble project that will meet and exceed environmental regulations and permitting requirements in Alaska and the United States, while providing significant benefits to the region, the state and the nation."

Prior to initiating project permitting, the Pebble Partnership plans to undertake a broad-based public engagement program to consult Alaskans and other project stakeholders about the current status of project planning. This public consultation initiative is slated to begin in the fall of 2012.

"As part of the process of developing a proposed project description, the Pebble Partnership will be meeting and consulting with the people and communities of Southwest Alaska and throughout the state to allow Alaskans and all interested stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how this project will be built and operated to provide significant benefits to the state and country, while protecting fish, water and other important natural resources," Thiessen said.

The project description is expected to include details of the Pebble mine plan; transportation corridor linking the deposit and Cook Inlet some 85 miles (137 kilometers) to the east; deep-water port-site at Cook Inlet; and generation for the some 400 megawatts of electricity expected to be needed to power the mill and other facilities at the enormous copper project.

According to the most recent resource calculation, the Pebble deposit contains 80.6 billion pounds of copper, 107.4 million ounces of gold and 5.6 billion pounds of molybdenum. That is enough copper to supply the United States' current total consumption for about 15 years and as much gold as held by Germany, which has the world's second-largest national gold reserve.


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