By Yereth Rosen
Alaska Beacon 

Pebble mine developer loses appeal over denied federal permit


April 24, 2024

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has dismissed an appeal filed by the Pebble mine developer in its effort to obtain a key permit needed to build the controversial copper and gold mine upstream of Southwest Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay.

The decision, released on April 15, lets stand a permit denial issued by the Army Corps in 2020.

Rejection of the appeal is the latest setback for the developer.

The biggest setback came in January 2023, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency invoked a rarely used provision of the Clean Water Act to preclude Pebble or any metals mine like it in key Bristol Bay watersheds.

The EPA action, which followed years of study and public hearings, was based on the agency’s determination that the Pebble mine would have “unacceptable adverse effects” on an ecosystem that supports commercial, sport and subsistence fisheries, as well as wildlife populations.

The Army Corps, in its 2020 permit denial, came to a similar conclusion as the EPA. It determined that the Pebble project “would cause significant degradation to the Koktuli River watershed,” an important salmon habitat, and that the project “would also be contrary to the public’s interest.”

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an attempt by the state to have the nation’s highest court review the EPA action. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration and the Pebble Limited Partnership have since started to pursue litigation in lower courts.

The Pebble Limited Partnership in 2021 appealed the Corps’ permit denial, and last year the Corps’ Pacific Ocean Division determined that the appeal raised issues that justified reconsideration at the Alaska district level.

In its decision April 15, the Alaska division determined that the EPA action precludes any revival of the permit that was denied in 2020.

Northern Dynasty Minerals, the Canadian company that is the sole owner of the Pebble Limited Partnership, said in a statement that it will continue to pursue the project.

“Our primary focus remains on removing the EPA veto, either through federal government action or through our existing legal proceedings in conjunction with the state of Alaska. Once the veto is cleared, it opens the way for us to re-engage” with the Army Corps, Ron Thiessen, Northern Dynasty’s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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