EPA will not decide on Pebble mine until Dec. 2

JUNEAU (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is extending until Dec. 2 the timeline to decide whether to proceed with proposed restrictions that would block plans for the controversial Pebble copper and gold mine in Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay region.

The agency, in a recent notice, said this would “help ensure full consideration of the extensive administrative record, including all public comments.” The public comment period ended Sept. 6.

The EPA earlier this year released a proposal that it said would bar discharges of dredged or fill material into the waters of the U.S. within the mine footprint proposed by the Pebble Limited Partnership, the developer pursuing the mining project. The agency’s regional administrator now must decide whether to withdraw the proposed restrictions or to advance to a higher level in the agency a recommendation on restrictions or prohibitions.

The debate over the proposed mine in a region known for its salmon runs has spanned several presidential administrations. The Bristol Bay region supports the largest sockeye salmon fishery in the world and also contains significant mineral resources.

John Shively, CEO of the Pebble partnership, in a statement Sept. 7 suggested any EPA veto of the project would likely be contested in court.

“The EPA’s proposed veto of Pebble is legally, environmentally and technically unsupported,” he said.

The Pebble partnership, owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, is appealing a decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the Trump administration in 2020 that denied approval of a key permit for the project in Southwest Alaska. An Army Corps environmental review of the project several months earlier was favorable to the development.

Mine opponents have been pressing the EPA to provide protections against large-scale mining in the region.


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