Permitting Process Under Way for Pebble Prospect

Canadian backers of a massive copper, gold and molybdenum mine adjacent to the Bristol Bay watershed in southwest Alaska have filed documents required to apply for a Clean Water Act 404 permit needed for discharge of dredged or fill materials into federal waters, including wetlands.

The US Army Corps of Engineers acknowledged, on January 5, receipt of the application from the Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), a wholly owned subsidiary of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., in Vancouver, British Columbia. Northern Dynasty itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of the diversified global mining group Hunter Dickenson Inc., also based in Vancouver. The PLP was established in 2007 to design, permit, construct and operate the controversial mine.

Ron Thiessen, chief executive officer of Northern Dynasty, said his firm was “pleased by the expediency with which permitting for the Pebble Project has been initiated and that the Corps will serve as the lead federal agency for the rigorous, objective, transparent and science based EIS (environmental impact statement) process.”

The announcement drew a quick response from United Tribes of Bristol Bay in Dillingham, Alaska, whose members include commercial harvesters of the Bay’s sockeye salmon.

“After witnessing more than a decade of Pebble’s deceit in Bristol Bay, it is no surprise that the application released this morning describes a much larger, different project than Pebble presented to Alaskans in the last six months,” said Robert Heyano, a veteran Bristol Bay harvester and president of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. “The science on such a project is already available, and already clear: this mine will devastate the Bristol Bay fishery. Bristol Bay residents will continue to fight this project and protect the water that has sustained our way of life since time immemorial,” he said.

The project is not economically feasible in the smaller footprint that is identified in the permit application; the ore is of such poor quality that it has to be huge to make it pay, he said.

Pebble’s 1,000-plus page application identifies 3,190.55 acres of wetlands and other waters to be filled at the mine site alone, or nearly three times the wetlands losses the EPA identified as posing unacceptable adverse impacts to the ecosystem, the tribal consortium said in its statement. Additionally, the application lists Upper Talarik Creek as one of eight water bodies “directly impacted” by the proposed project, and this runs counter to recent statements by Tom Collier, chief executive officer for the PLP, that the project would not affect Upper Talarik Creek and the Kvichak River watersheds, the tribal consortium said.

Pebble’s permit application documents, including the project description, are available online at

The proposed project, according to Northern Dynasty, would include a 230-megawatt power plant at the mine site, an 83-mile transportation corridor from the mine site to a port site on the west side of Cook Inlet, a permanent, year-round port facility on Cook Inlet and a 188-mile natural gas pipeline from the Kenai Peninsula to the mine site.