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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

Alaska gov calls for halt of Pebble EIS

Contends project is not ready for review, AMA says he is wrong


Last updated 7/13/2018 at 7:03am

Proposed Pebble copper gold molybdenum mine Southwest Alaska

Pebble Limited Partnership

During the exploration phase, the Pebble project provided good paying jobs to workers from the Bristol Bay region.

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has called for a halt to an environmental review process aimed at determining whether a mine at Pebble can be developed in a way that protects the environment of the Bristol Bay region where the world-class copper-gold-molybdenum deposit is found.

In a June 29 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also signed by Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, Walker questioned the "readiness of the proposed Pebble project to move forward."

The governor cited the lack of a formal economic assessment of the plan the Pebble Limited Partnership has put forward as his reason for calling for an end to the environmental review.

In a written statement, Gov. Walker said the Corps should suspend the EIS process, because the Pebble Partnership "has not demonstrated to Alaskans that the proposed mine is feasible and realistic."

"Without a preliminary economic assessment, the Corps would be unable to thoroughly vet alternative plans of development," he wrote.

Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said "the governor does not make a compelling case to suspend the NEPA process."

Instead, Walker's call to short-circuit the environmental review of a proposed mining project on state lands echoes arguments made by environmental groups staunchly opposed to Pebble.

"We find it incredibly disappointing that the governor's request to suspend the NEPA process is nearly identical to that brought forward by the anti-Alaska, anti-development Natural Resources Defense Council," Collier added. "We expect this type of stall tactic from ENGOs (environmental non-governmental organizations) opposed to any kind of development but not from the governor of Alaska and especially when the project is on Alaska land."

The governor's request came in the final hours of the scoping period for an environmental impact statement, or EIS, being prepared by the Corps.

The EIS process is the most rigorous and detailed analysis under the U.S. National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, created by Congress in 1970 to ensure federal regulators have the information needed to assess potential and existing environmental risks of projects prior to issuing permits.

The scoping period at the front end of this process helps to set the framework for the EIS.

Sheila Newman, deputy chief, Regulatory Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District said in April that the scoping period for Pebble will determine the appropriate contents of an EIS and identify specific elements of the environment that might be affected by Pebble Partnership's proposal to develop a mine.

In his request for the Corps to end this environmental review, the Gov. Walker pointed to the most obvious environmental element in Bristol Bay, the world-class class sockeye salmon fishery there, as a reason for a mine developed at Pebble to be held to a higher standard.

"The governor has said we have a high bar to demonstrate how we can mine and protect the salmon in the area around Pebble," Collier penned in a written statement. "It is this Corps environmental impact statement process that will give Alaskans answers and assurance to this very issue."

"Frankly, the governor does not make a compelling case to suspend the NEPA process," he added.

Collier said the governor's request to suspend the EIS of a mining project on state lands is an example "of behavior that makes many in the global investment community reluctant to invest in Alaska."

Mike Satre, government and community relations manager for Greens Creek Mining, delivered a similar message to Alaska lawmaker in Juneau earlier this year.

"While we have a lot of state land that is selected for mineral use, some projects are favored by the state and some aren't," he said during a Feb. 13 presentation. "Until the state takes a consistent approach to mineral resources on state land, state land will be the last place people look to invest their dollars."

While Satre did not elaborate on which projects are out of favor, Gov. Walker's outspoken lack of support for Pebble, a world-class copper-gold-molybdenum mine project on state lands, fits the bill.

Beyond scaring away potential investments into the state, Alaska Miners Association said that the governor's request to stop the Pebble environmental review is "advocating against the very scientific evaluation all projects should receive."

"The governor is wrong, and AMA intends to fight for due process in Alaska," the mining association vowed.

Collier said a Corps-led EIS process is the best place to determine whether or not the Pebble Partnership can responsibly develop and mine the rich copper, gold and molybdenum deposit at Pebble.

"We know that that vast majority of Alaskans, regardless of their views about our project, support the rule of law and a fair process for reviewing Pebble. The governor of Alaska should believe in this process too," he said.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 11 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (907) 726-1095


Reader Comments

Eidolon writes:

This is a huge mistake by the governor.


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