Corps begins EIS on Pebble Mine proposal
Last updated 4/6/2018 at 5:22am
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District March 28 published a Notice of Intent to prepare a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for review of the Pebble Limited Partnership's application to discharge fill material into waters of the United States for the purpose of developing a mine at its world-class copper-gold-molybdenum project in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska
A 30-day public scoping and public comment period is set to begin April 1.
This scoping period is a process used to determine the appropriate contents of an EIS and identify specific elements of the environment that might be affected by the applicant's proposal.
"We are committed to an open, transparent, and timely process for the review of this permit application," said Col. Michael Brooks, Alaska District commander. "Through scoping, we ask the public to help us identify the significant issues to be analyzed in the EIS and offer information to shape the alternatives to be reviewed."
Those opposed to a mine at Pebble, however, said the 30-day period is too short to fully address a mine project the size being proposed for the project.
"Such a short time frame will ultimately exclude not only the people of Bristol Bay, but all Alaskans," said United Tribes for Bristol Bay Executive Director Alannah Hurley. "We will not have a meaningful opportunity to engage and provide critical input on how we will be impacted by the Pebble Mine."
The people of the Bristol Bay region and Alaska as a whole, however, have already been provided the opportunity for meaningful engagement during a pre-permitting assessment of the Pebble project and its potential impacts on the Bristol Bay region carried out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Taking into consideration the concerns raised during EPA's "Bristol Bay Assessment," the Pebble Partnership re-configured the Pebble Mine plan in a way that balances the environmental considerations of developing a mine in an area of Alaska renowned for its world-class salmon fishery and the economics of developing an equally outstanding deposit of copper.
Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said the key to finding this balance was to address the primary concern of EPA and opponents of the Pebble project – size.
"What really needed to be brought to this game is a really serious focus on footprint reduction," he said.
One of the keys to reducing the footprint while still having an ability to produce copper at a rate that is economically feasible is the new Pebble Mine plan focuses on a portion of the deposit that comes right to the surface.
Expected to produce some 5.74 billion pounds of copper, 6.4 million ounces of gold, 32 million oz of silver and 260 million lb of molybdenum over a 20-year mine life, the smaller Pebble Mine proposal still has the capacity to be economically sound.
The Pebble Partnership submitted the design for this mine proposal to the Corps in December and the regulator confirmed that the application was complete in January.
As part of the 30-day scoping period, the Corps will be hosting meetings across the Bristol Bay region, Anchorage and Homer starting on April 9.
These meeting will be held at:
Naknek on April 9;
Kokhanok on April 10;
Homer on April 11;
Newhalen on April 12;
Nondalton on April 16;
Dillingham on April 17;
Iguigig on April 18; and
Anchorage on April 19.
Due to the anticipated high attendance, an open microphone will not be available at the Anchorage, Homer and Dillingham meetings.
Written comments may be submitted at any of the public meetings or mailed to:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District
ATTN: DA Permit Application 2017-271, Pebble Limited Partnership
P.O. Box 6898 Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, 99506-0898
The Corps currently plans to have the draft EIS for Pebble completed early in 2019, which will be followed by another public comment period. If the process stays on schedule, the Corps anticipates having a final EIS for Pebble published by the end of 2019 and a record of decision on the copper mine proposal completed by March of 2020.
For more information on the Pebble review process, including the Pebble Partnership's permit application and associated documents, visit: pebbleprojecteis.com.