Both Sides Working to Resolve Pebble Litigation

A joint motion filed this week by backers of a massive mining project adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed and the US Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a stay of proceedings in ongoing litigation in hopes of resolving the matter.

The announcement from Northern Dynasty Minerals in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the EPA said that substantial progress has been made in recent discussions and that the two sides intend to continue negotiating the matter directly, rather than through mediation. Federal government representatives engaged in discussions with the Pebble Partnership are focused on achieving a resolution agreeable to both parties, they said.

Meanwhile, the US District Court’s preliminary injunction, issued on Nov. 25, 2014, will remain in effect. The litigation stems from the Pebble Limited Partnership’s lawsuit alleging that the EPA worked with mine opponents in a predetermined effort to stop development of the copper, gold and molybdenum project. The EPA countered that the lawsuit aimed to undermine its effort to protect Bristol Bay from potential environmental damage.

Mine backers say that the EPA is preemptively vetoing the project on land designated for mineral development by the state of Alaska.

The EPA has defended its decision to use Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, which authorizes the EPA to restrict or deny the discharge of dredged or fill material at defined sites in federal waters, if the EPA determines such sites would have unacceptable adverse impact on various resources, including fisheries.

Pebble partnership CEO Tom Collier said the company is confident of achieving a fair resolution that follows the rule of law, supports the interests of the parties involved and allows the project to move into a normal course permitting process.

Mine backers contend that the mine can be developed and operated in harmony with the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay.

Mine opponents contend that pollution from the mine stands to cause extensive adverse effects to the fishery.