The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has extended its consideration period for proposed restrictions on mining at the proposed Pebble mine site in Southwest Alaska, this time until Dec. 2.
The comment period was originally set to end in July, then continued to early September. While the comment period is now closed, the EPA is giving itself additional time to consider its decision.
The crux of the issue is the potential adverse impact of the mine on the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of sockeye salmon. The 2022 season was a record breaker for the millions of salmon caught in Bristol Bay, providing thousands of jobs to workers and millions of dollars to the industry and economy of Alaska.
The EPA is currently faced with whether to withdraw proposed restrictions announced earlier this year on discharges from the mine site, which would be owned and operated by the Pebble Partnership, with offices in Anchorage.
The Pebble Partnership is a subsidiary of the Vancouver, Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., itself a subsidiary of Hunter Dickinson Inc. a diversified, global mining company also based in Vancouver.
Pebble Partnership CEO John Shively said in a statement released this past week that EPA’s proposed veto of Pebble is legally, environmentally and technically unsupported and politically motivated, and that should EPA finalize its Pebble veto it would likely be contested in court.
“The EPA should withdraw its actions against Pebble and let the established permitting and review process function as designed,” he said.
Opponents of the mine, including organizations representing commercial fishermen, meanwhile have continued to urge the EPA to release a Recommended Determination, followed by a Final Determination, providing permanent protections for the headwaters of Bristol Bay this year.
Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay in a statement this past week asked the EPA to finalize Clean Water Act 404 (c) protections for the region.
Katherine Carscallen executive director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, said the watershed has allowed fishermen to feed the world, but that as long as it’s threatened by the Pebble mine, the fishing industry suffers.
“The EPA must take into account the hundreds of thousands of public comments from tribes, fishermen, and members of the community and finalize Clean Water Act protections by the end of this year,” she said.