Army Corps assigns new officer for Pebble
New review officer to oversee Pebble's administrative appeal North of 60 Mining News - August 20, 2021
Last updated 8/19/2021 at 3:48pm
In the most recent update on Pebble Limited Partnership’s administrative appeal to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. reported it has been assigned a new review officer for the appeal of the federal agency’s issuance of a negative record of decision for the world-class copper-gold project in Southwest Alaska.
Following last November’s negative record of decision by Army Corps, Pebble Partnership submitted a request for appeal of the federal permitting decision in January, which was accepted by USACE’s Pacific Ocean Division Engineer in Hawaii as complete and meeting the criteria as early as February.
According to Northern Dynasty, Pebble Partnership has been advised that the administrative appeal process for Pebble is likely to take a year or longer given the complexity of the case and the scope of the record – approximately 200,000 documents.
“We have been, and continue to be, very concerned about the USACE’s schedule and timeline for advancing our administrative appeal of the Pebble permitting decision, as we believe this does not accord with regulation,” said Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty.
Northern Dynasty announced in June that Army Corps would be naming a new review officer to lead the Pebble appeal, as the previous RO had been promoted out of the position. The new officer is expected to set a detailed timeline for the administrative appeal process, including scheduling a potential site visit and appeal conference, in the coming weeks.
“The new RO has the power to help set the U.S. down the path of strategic metals independence, which could enable the U.S. to produce the copper, gold and silver it needs for a successful green economy transition,” said Theissen. “They can also help ensure that these metals are mined using industry-leading technologies under some of the strictest environmental standards in the world, while helping Alaska realize its right to manage its own resources for the benefit of its population.”
As the Army Corp’s Alaska District published a final environmental impact statement for the proposed copper gold-molybdenum-silver-rhenium mine in mid-2020 and finding that Pebble would “not have measurable effects” on fish populations or fisheries in Southwest Alaska, the published record of decision in November denying Pebble a key permit under the U.S. Clean Water Act on the grounds that its compensatory mitigation plan is non-compliant, and the project was not in the public interest, came as a disappointment, among other things, to the Pebble Partnership.
“We are obviously dismayed by today’s news given that the USACE had published an environmental impact statement in July that clearly stated the project could successfully co-exist with the fishery and would have provided substantial economic benefit to the communities closest to the deposit,” said Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shively at the time the ROD was announced.
Today, Northern Dynasty has continued to push for the appeal and has kept a firm stance that key aspects of the USACE’s ROD and permitting decision – mainly its significant degradation finding, its public interest review findings, and its perfunctory rejection of Pebble’s compensatory mitigation plan – are contrary to law, unprecedented in Alaska, and fundamentally unsupported by the administrative record, including the Pebble project environmental impact statement.