Wildfire Destroys Pebble Mine Prospect Supply Camp

A map of the Bristol Bay watershed, which the proposed Pebble Mine project would abut. Image: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Heatwole said the company, part of  Northern Dynasty Minerals, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, was notified of the damage done by the Upper Talarik fire by the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. PLP had been working with the group for a few weeks since fires were spotted in the area and there were signs they could spread toward the supply camp. 

Heatwole said it’s worth noting that the camp was not for a mine in Bristol Bay, but rather to support the company’s exploration drilling, maintenance, reclamation and environmental studies.

“We are what the industry calls an advanced exploration project,” he said.

Employees who work at the site are housed in the nearby communities of Iliamna and Newhalen and flown by helicopter to work daily. There were no employees present at the time of the fire.

Heatwole said plans were to begin cleanup activities following the fire, but that the helicopter they planned to use had to be pulled to fight a fire elsewhere in the state. The initial cleanup will be conducted later in the summer, along with a more thorough assessment of the damage.

Wildfires in the summer of 2022 had burned over one million acres in Alaska through mid-June.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2020 declined to approve a permit for the mine project, a move that PLP is appealing.

Mine opponents, including the nonprofit entity SalmonState, have been urging the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize proposed protections for the Bristol Bay watershed region by the end of 2022.

“Twenty years of fighting this ill-conceived idea is enough,” SalmonState Executive Director Tim Bristol said.

The federal agency has extended the comment period for the proposed protections until Sept. 6, with no firm date yet set for its final determination.

The Pebble Limited Partnership, in Anchorage, Alaska, is the principal asset of Northern Dynasty Minerals, and has a contiguous block of 1,840 mineral claims in Southwest Alaska, including the Pebble deposit, located 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Northern Dynasty itself is a subsidiary of Hunter Dickson Inc., a diversified private global mining group also headquartered in Vancouver, B.C.