Pebble, State of Alaska, Back in Court Regarding Mine Defense

Image: The Pebble Partnership.

A Canadian mining company intent on building a copper, gold and molybdenum mine abutting the Bristol Bay watershed has renewed litigation, seeking to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency veto of permits for the Pebble Mine.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court in Alaska on Friday, March 15, came on the heels of the state of Alaska’s lawsuit filed March 14 in the U.S. federal claims court asking for more than $700 billion in damages for state lands that Alaska contends were confiscated.

Ron Thiessen, president and CEO of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. (NDM) in Vancouver, British Columbia, said his company’s priority is to advance the district federal court complaint because overturning the illegal veto removes a major impediment from getting the permit to build the proposed mine.

Thiessen said that if the federal government continues to block the permitting process, that Northern Dynasty would seek substantial compensation.

“We are filing litigation to fully contest the EPA’s unprecedented and unlawful actions against the Pebble Project,” Pebble Limited Partnership Chief Executive John Shively said. “Since our objections to the politically motivated actions by the EPA have long fallen on deaf ears, we have sued the agency in federal court in Alaska to have our issues fairly and objectively heard.”

The state alleges in its lawsuit that the federal government tied up 309 square miles of state land in Bristol Bay with new regulations, breaking its contract with the state in violating of the Cook Inlet Land Exchange of 1975 and violating the Statehood Act of 1953.

Bristol Bay Native Corp. (BBNC) said the regional Alaska Native corporation is disappointed in the legal challenges brought by Northern Dynasty and the state of Alaska to the EPA’s final determination for Bristol Bay, and that the EPA decision was grounded in science and supported by the majority of Alaskans.

Jason Metrokin, president and CEO of BBNC, said it is simply a mistake for NDM and the state to continue pursuit of what could be the largest open pit mine in North America near the headwaters of the world’s largest wild sockeye salmon fishery.

“These fisheries have sustained our people for thousands of years and today support a commercial fishery that provides more than $2 billion in economic activity annually and supports over 15,000 jobs. BBNC continues to maintain that Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place,” he said.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay (UTBB) also issued a statement, identifying NDM and the Pebble Limited Partnership as companies with a proven history of misleading their stakeholders, political manipulation and misrepresenting the size and scope of the mine in proposals to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.