Northern Dynasty, State of Alaska, Seek to Vacate EPA Veto on Pebble

A map of the proposed Pebble Mine site. Image: National Parks Conservation Association.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is continuing the state’s legal pursuit for the permitting of the proposed Pebble mine by asking the U.S. District Court in Alaska to find the Environmental Protection Agency’s order on state land in Bristol Bay unlawful.

A complaint filed April 11 argues that the state is protecting its interests as the landowner from unlawful federal actions, including being dispossessed of its right to manage its own property.

The Pebble prospect abuts the Bristol Bay watershed, home of the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. The fishery annually provides thousands of jobs and contributes millions of dollars to the state’s economy.

Opponents of the mine contend that the potential adverse environmental impact of the mine would prove a disaster for the fishery, while proponents argue that by using the most advanced technology to develop and operate the mine that work at the mine can be done in harmony with the fishery.

Litigation on whether the mine should be built and operate has been ongoing for well over a decade.  Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said the federal government’s effort to preemptively block any development on state lands in such a giant swath – 200,000 acres – “is a blatant affront to the sovereignty of Alaska.”

The state contends that the Pebble deposit contains over 57 billion pounds of copper, as well as gold, silver and rare earth elements necessary to power developing energy sectors.

A statement released by the state notes that the state is not endorsing any specific mining project, nor has the state completed state-required permitting decisions for the mine proposal.

On March 15, Vancouver, B.C.-based Northern Dynasty Minerals and its subsidiary, the Pebble Limited Partnership, filed two separate actions in federal courts seeking to overturn what it considers to be the EPA’s illegal veto of permits needed for the mine.