Alaska Gov Mike Dunleavy says the state will appeal a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to deny a Clean Water Act permit critical to the Canadian firm proposing to build a massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine at the headwaters to Bristol Bay.
Dunleavy contends that the USACE decision is flawed and creates a dangerous precedent. He said that the state has to prevent federal agencies “from using the regulatory process to effectively prevent the state from fulfilling a constitutional mandate to develop its natural resources.”
According to Corri Feige, the state’s commissioner of natural resources, the state constitution directs the state to develop its resources in the public interest and when a federal agency tries to deprive the state of that right, it must be challenged.
The governor’s announcement drew a quick response from mine opponents, who contend that Pebble mine poses a serious threat to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, where millions of wild red salmon from five major river systems return every year, resulting in a catch of millions of fish in a multi-million-dollar fishery.
The Army Corps found in its decision that Pebble’s mitigation plan failed to overcome the significant potential impacts of the mine and that the mine was not in the public interest. The public interest review included an assessment of factors including environmental, economic and social impacts associated with destruction of the headwaters of the Koktuli watershed, as well as mine operations that would produce huge amounts of toxic waste that would have to be managed in perpetuity.
“The Army Corps made the only defensible decision it could when denying the permit for the proposed Pebble mine,” said Katie Strong, senior staff attorney with Trustees for Alaska, a public interest law firm in Anchorage “The state of Alaska’s decision to administratively appeal that decision blatantly disregards the science and puts the pocketbook of a Canadian mining company above those of its own citizens. The Corps should deny the appeal immediately.”
“In announcing the state will appeal, the governor has chose to ignore scientific fat and the large majority of Alaskans,” said Tim Bristol, executive director of SalmonState, a nonprofit that works to project salmon habitat and the people who depend on the salmon. The only way to stop this toxic project for good is with an EPA veto.”
“Bristol Bay residents and Alaskans have been clear that we will not trade one of the world’s last robust salmon fisheries for a gold mine and the Army Corps decision affirmed that this toxic project is too risky for our home and does not serve the public interest,” said Lindsay Layland, deputy director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay, in Dillingham. Layland said it is outrageous that the Dunleavy administration would go against the will of Alaskans to benefit a foreign mining company that has no value to the state.