VANCOUVER (miningweekly.com) – Canadian project promoter Northern Dynasty Minerals announced on Thursday that its US-based subsidiary Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) is ready to file an application for a US Clean Water Act (CWA) 404 permit with the US Army Corps of Engineers on Friday.
“At the outset of 2017, we established three ambitious corporate objectives for Northern Dynasty and the Pebble project. We committed to reaching a resolution with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to restore the Pebble project to normal course permitting, to re-partnering on the Pebble project and to initiating permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). As we approach the end of the year, I’m proud to report that we will hit our mark on all three important milestones,” president and CEO Ron Thiessen said in a press release Thursday.
The year indeed saw Northern Dynasty making fresh progress to move the stalled project further along the development timeline, first reaching an agreement in May with the EPA, through which the federal agency agreed to initiate a process to withdraw its proposed determination under Section 404(c) of the CWA, thereby clearing the way for Pebble to apply for a CWA 404 permit with the US Army Corps of Engineers.
On Monday, Northern Dynasty announced a framework agreement with First Quantum Minerals anticipating that an affiliate of First Quantum will subsequently execute a $150-million option agreement with Northern Dynasty, which provides for a future right to acquire a 50% interest in the PLP for a further investment of $1.35-billion.
Northern Dynasty has confirmed that it has now received an initial $37.5-million early option instalment payment from First Quantum.
Under the latest development scenario, the Pebble’s main mine facilities, including the pit, tailings storage facility, will be substantially smaller than previous planning iterations, at about 1 530 ha; with no primary mine operations in the Upper Talarik watershed, which is expected to reduce the project’s environmental footprint and address stakeholder concerns related to potential impacts on local salmon fisheries – considered some of the most productive in the world.
The tailing storage facility (TSF) will incorporate a more conservative design, including enhanced buttresses, greater slope angles and an improved factor of safety. Further, the PLP now proposes that the potentially acid generating tailings will be separated from other tailings and stored in a lined TSF. All tailings storage will be consolidated in a single drainage-area, in the North Fork Koktuli.
The mine plan does not include permanent waste rock piles, significantly reducing risks associated with water quality and Northern Dynasty advises that no cyanide will be used in the mineral recovery process at Pebble, in direct response to stakeholder concerns.
As part of the Pebble project, the proponents will also evaluate construction of a new ferry route across Iliamna Lake to reduce road construction, stream crossings, bridges and culverts, as well as the proposed mine’s impact on local wetlands.
The mine will also be designed to withstand the greatest possible seismicity predicted by science.
Northern Dynasty expects the project to be a boon to Alaska and local communities, anticipating estimated yearly payments to the Lake & Peninsula borough will be $19-million to $21-million, and $49-million to $66-million in yearly payments to Alaska.
According to Northern Dynasty, the project is expected to create between 1 500 to 2 000 direct and indirect jobs for Alaskans during mine operations.
The PLP will also advance a revenue sharing plan to enhance local and regional financial benefits associated with development of Pebble.