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

By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

APC, Pebble pact provides mine access

Alaska Native corp. sees benefits of responsible Pebble Mine

 

Last updated 11/30/2018 at 4:55am

Pebble copper project gets road access across Alaska Native lands

Pebble Limited Partnership

Many residents from the Bristol Bay region played a role in outlining the world-class copper-gold-molybdenum deposit at Pebble. Alaska Peninsula Corp. hopes its shareholders can realize greater economic benefits from participating in an environmentally responsible mine there.

Alaska Peninsula Corp., which represents five Alaska Native village corporations in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska, has reached an agreement with the Pebble Limited Partnership to provide transportation corridor access across its lands to support construction and operation of the proposed Pebble mine.

Formed as a merger between the South Naknek, Port Heiden, Ugashik, Kokhanok and Newhalen village corporations, Alaska Peninsula Corp. owns the surface rights to roughly 400,000 acres, making it one of the largest private land owners in the Bristol Bay region.

This merged village corporation, known as APC, said the long-term agreement it has entered into with the Pebble Partnership represents an important step forward for both companies in responsibly advancing the Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum project in Southwest Alaska.

"Among our leading priorities as an Alaska Native corporation is to manage and develop our lands responsibly, in a manner that creates employment opportunities for our shareholders but also respects our subsistence values and culture," said APC Vice President of Corporate Affairs Brad Angasan. "That's exactly what this deal represents for APC, as well as securing us an important seat at the table as the Pebble Project advances."

Powerful benefits

Under the agreement, APC has granted Pebble a secure right to use defined portions of APC lands for future development of transportation infrastructure – roads, pipelines, ferry landing sites and related land uses – if the proposed mine is successfully permitted and proceeds to construction and operations.

The transportation infrastructure proposed under a new development plan introduced by the Pebble Partnership at the beginning of this year is substantially different than those previously proposed.

The new 83-mile transportation corridor would run south from the Pebble Mine, across Iliamna Lake and then turn west to Amakdedori, a deep-sea port site on Cook Inlet. One of the unique concepts of this plan is to use an ice-breaking ferry to transport supplies and concentrate across Iliamna Lake.

In addition to a road, 12-inch natural gas pipeline will run along this corridor, providing the fuel for the 270-megawatts currently being planned for Pebble. This is enough capacity to power the mine and distribute electricity across a wider region.

At nearly US80 cents per kilowatt-hour, electricity in Bristol Bay is expensive, a burden for both the residents and fishing sector there.

The Pebble Partnership hopes to generate the power for Pebble and the region with Cook Inlet natural gas.

"Our plan is to bring in enough capacity so that there will be power available to be distributed to the villages in the region," Pebble Partnership Tom Collier told Mining News earlier this year.

While no deals have been finalized that would allow for the delivery of electricity or gas beyond the mine site, there have been talks of potentially bringing on a third-party utility that would have the ability to distribute energy to the region.

Additionally, this land route is expected to lower the costs of power, equipment and supplies delivered into the region, as well as enhance economic activity.

This is expected to be especially beneficial to two of the APC villages, Kokhanok and Newhalen, which will be linked to the transportation corridor via spur roads.

The remaining 65 percent of the transportation corridor would be on lands owned by the state of Alaska.

Road to economic opportunities

Whether or not a deal can be worked out to deliver energy, APC and its shareholders are expected to be the beneficiaries of other economic opportunities delivered via the roughly 30 miles of the proposed Pebble transportation corridor crossing its lands.

Under the agreement, APC will receive annual toll payments and other fees paid by Pebble prior to and during project construction and operation.

Pebble has also agreed to negotiate a profit-sharing agreement that will ensure APC and its shareholders benefit directly from the profits generated by mining activity in the region.

While details of this deal are not yet available, the Pebble Partnership has previously proposed a plan that would provide participants with an ownership interest in any mine that is developed at Pebble.

With roughly 56.8 billion pounds copper, 70.4 million ounces gold, 3.4 billion lb molybdenum and 343.6 million oz silver in measured and indicated resource, Pebble hosts both the largest undeveloped copper and undeveloped gold resource on Earth.

While the operation being proposed by Pebble Partnership will only mine a portion of this world-class deposit, the financial benefits to owners are expected to be substantial.

This world-class mine would also need a wide array of services that could be provided by independent contractors – camp services, road maintenance, port operations are just a few of the services Pebble would need.

APC has negotiated a deal with Pebble Partnership that provides the Native corporation with a preferential opportunity to bid on Pebble-related contracts on its lands.

Environmental remediation, construction services, administrative management services, environmental consultation, transportation management, exploration services and electrical construction are among the services APC already provides.

On top of contracting opportunities, the Pebble Mine is expected to provide many jobs to the region.

It is expected to take roughly 2,000 people to build Pebble and around 850 to operate the mine, many of these jobs would be filled by APC shareholders and residents of the Bristol Bay region.

Many APC shareholders have already worked or provided services at Pebble over the more than two decades of exploration at the enormous copper deposit.

Seeing firsthand the benefits this brought to the region, the APC board believes a responsibly designed and operated mine at Pebble can make a positive long-term contribution to the lives and well-being of APC shareholders and villages.

Eye on permitting

Before any economic benefits can be realized, the Pebble Mine project must make it through the federal and state permitting, a process APC is keeping a close eye on.

"We have faith in the federal and state regulatory and permitting process that is currently evaluating Pebble's proposed project," Angasan said. "If Pebble can be permitted, and it is demonstrated that clean water, healthy fisheries and other important natural and subsistence resources will be protected, then APC will support the Pebble mine and stand beside PLP as a partner in its development."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency in charge of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for Pebble.

Pebble copper gold molybdenum mine project access gas pipeline map

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 Army Corps currently plans to have a draft EIS published in January of next year and reach a record of decision on the Pebble Mine by 2020. This would wrap up the largest portion of the permitting process.

Angasan said APC is closely monitoring this process with the hopes that an environmentally responsible mine comes out the other side.

"If this project can be built and operated safely, we want to ensure our shareholders benefit to the greatest extent possible," he said.

 

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