Trump to Alaska: No Pebble Mine politics
President says he will do what is right for Alaska and nation North of 60 Mining News – September 17, 2020
Last updated 9/26/2020 at 3:27pm
U.S. President Donald Trump assured Alaskans that politics will not play a role in the federal permitting decision for the Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum-rhenium mine in Southwest Alaska.
"Don't worry, wonderful & beautiful Alaska, there will be NO POLITICS in the Pebble Mine Review Process. I will do what is right for Alaska and our great Country!!!," Trump said in a late Wednesday tweet.
This is in contrast to several premortem Pebble obituaries published by national news outlets in August that claimed the "Trump administration is planning to block the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska."
These reports were based on leaked information that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Alaska office would be sending a letter to the Pebble Limited Partnership, the Alaska-based company advancing permitting and potential future development of the proposed mine, "that could be the death knell for the massive copper and gold project."
While the reports of an Army Corps letter were correct, the contents did not herald Pebble's death. Instead, this memo from the agency leading the federal permitting process for Pebble outlined expectations for mitigation of the proposed mine's wetlands impacts.
The Pebble Partnership had already been expecting the mitigation request and was already in the process of carrying out land surveys and other work to meet the requirements.
"The White House had nothing to do with the letter nor is it the show-stopper described by several in the news media," Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said at the time.
Speculation that the administration could weigh in on the Pebble permitting process had been circulating since early August, when President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., voiced concerns about mine development in the area.
"The headwaters of Bristol Bay and the surrounding fishery are too unique and fragile to take any chances with," Trump Jr. tweeted.
This comment by the younger Trump prompted a reporter to ask the President where he stood on the idea his administration should err toward caution when it comes to the Pebble Mine.
"I don't know of the argument yet but, but I would certainly listen to both sides, my son has very strong opinions, and he is very much an environmentalist," the elder Trump answered.
The President said he was expecting to be briefed on the proposed mine.
President's Sept. 16 tweet that there will be "no politics in the Pebble Mine review process" indicates that after being briefed, the White House will not interfere with due process as the proposed mine nears the end of its vetting under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, the foundation of federal environmental permitting in the U.S.
After roughly 2.5 years of analysis under NEPA, Army Corps published a final environmental impact statement in July that found that a mine at Pebble would have "no measurable impact" on salmon populations in the Bristol Bay watershed, which is the primary concern, and would provide a substantial boost to the regional and state economies.
The final step will be for the Army Corps to issue a record of decision for the EIS, which is expected after the Pebble Partnership submits the mitigation plan requested in the August letter.
Pebble expects to have the mitigation plan ready in the coming weeks.
While a positive record of decision would mark the end of the federal permitting process, the Pebble Mine would still need to receive state permits, which is expected to take two to three years.