JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – TSX-listed Northern Dynasty Minerals has again criticised the recently published draft Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) report, stating that the report held narrow boundaries and restrictions for peer reviewers.
The US Environmental Protection Agency's Region 10 office published the report, ‘An Assessment of Potential Mining Impacts on Salmon Ecosystems of Bristol Bay, Alaska’, for public comment in May.
Northern Dynasty has called on the EPA to substantially expand and extend role of independent experts assembled to review the BBWA.
The Pebble project is a significant potential copper, gold and molybdenum deposit about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, on state land designated for mineral exploration and development. But the project has come under heavy criticism from environmental and community groups who say the mine will threaten salmon populations.
Northern Dynasty and Anglo American, in a 50:50 joint venture (JV) partnership, are hoping to develop the project.
Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen stressed that the draft BBWA report was “a fundamentally flawed, premature and rushed document that omitted key sources of scientific data, incorporated out-of-date and inapplicable information, and distorted other data to arrive at conclusions that are simply not supported in science”.
Further, Thiessen stated that the Region 10 office insisted the process be completed “before Americans go to the polls in November”, sparking him to question the rationale for the deadline and why the assessment was being undertaken before a detailed mine proposal had been presented.
The JV company, Pebble Partnership, was currently finalising a proposed design for the Pebble project that it said would meet and exceed environmental regulations and permitting requirements in Alaska and the US.
Further, a public consultation initiative in Alaska in the latter half of 2012 was planned by the parties to “share the status of project engineering with stakeholders”.
"Our concern is that the premature, rushed and under-informed nature of this investigation will lead to a scientifically indefensible outcome. Pebble is simply too important a resource to be subject to the whims of political, rather than objective, science-based decision-making," he added.
Thiessen believed that the draft charge for the peer reviewers was also “artificially narrow” and would further prohibit the required 12 independent experts’ assessments, particularly in respect of the scope, methodology, underlying assumptions, data sources and analysis presented in the draft report.
Further, he pointed to narrow boundaries placed on the questions and comments put forward by peer reviewers and the investigations they could undertake.
He suggested that the BBWA report should be abandoned, and the Pebble project should, when ready, proceed to be comprehensively reviewed by federal and state regulatory agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act, “like every other significant resource development project in the country”.
He further stated that good scientific practices should be allowed “to rule the day” considering the global significance of the mineral resource and its strategic and economic value to Alaska and the US.
Pebble Partnership is targeting first production from the contentious project in 2020.
Northern Dynasty shares shed 3% on the TSX on Thursday morning, trading at C$2.36 a share by about 11:00 in Toronto.