TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The proponent of one of the largest undeveloped minerals resources left in the world, on Thursday said the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final version of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA) was “really the final chapter in a very sad story".
TSX-listed Northern Dynasty Minerals, which has high hopes for developing the Pebble copper/gold/molybdenum project, in Alaska, said that while it acknowledged the EPA’s final published version of the BBWA, it believed that the EPA set out to do a flawed analysis of the project.
"Publication of the final watershed assessment is really the final chapter in a very sad story," Northern Dynasty president and CEO Ron Thiessen said.
The company said that the EPA released drafts of the watershed assessment in May 2012, and April 2013, to widespread criticism about the report's flawed methodology and findings, including from the state of Alaska, Alaska Native groups and expert peer reviewers commissioned by the federal agency.
“Throughout the process of completing the BBWA, EPA has repeatedly failed to meet its own guidelines and policies for watershed assessments, risk assessment and peer review, and violated the US Information Quality Act,” the company charged.
Thiessen said the final BBWA report did not include any recommendations or regulatory actions that would affect future development of the Pebble project.
"We look forward to defining a proposed development plan for Pebble and to having it reviewed by federal and state regulatory agencies under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the months and years ahead.
"We have every expectation that the Environmental Impact Statement process required by NEPA, to be administered by the US Army Corps of Engineers, will ultimately provide a much more rigorous, fair and transparent review of the science surrounding this important project,” Thiessen said.
Global miner Rio Tinto in December said it was considering selling its stake in Northern Dynasty. Rio owns a 19.1% stake in Northern Dynasty through a subsidiary, making it the largest single investor.
Northern Dynasty's partner in Pebble, Anglo American, pulled out in September, as part of its plan to cut the cost of future options and halve its $17-billion pipeline of potential mines.
CONTROVERSIAL POTENTIAL WEALTH CREATOR
Despite its potential to support 15 000 jobs and contribute $2.5-billion-plus a year to US gross domestic product over decades of production, the concern of the local Eskimo fishing community centres on Bristol Bay’s ‘renewable’ wild salmon fishery being negatively impacted by the ‘non-renewable’ Pebble mine potentially disposing waste into fishing waters.
The Stop Pebble initiative argues that the proposed Pebble mine will be gouged out of an American paradise that is filled with salmon, bears, moose, caribou, wolves and whales and that has sustained local livelihoods for thousands of years.
More than 67 varieties of state and federal permits will be required before construction can begin and more than a dozen state and federal entities will oversee the process.
Acquired by Northern Dynasty in 2001, Pebble is clearly a project that could help to close the economic void that is being left by depleting Alaskan oil.
The project proposes to construct a large openpit mine; an on-site milling facility; on-site storage for rock, ore and tailings; a port facility; an access road connecting the mine site to the port; an on-site water supply for the mill; and provide electrical power for the mine site, in south-west Alaska.
In addition, the project plans to include an on-site 378 MW gas-fired turbine plant, a 138 km transportation corridor to Cook Inlet for road and pipeline rights of way and a new deep-water port at Cook Inlet.
The project’s key assets are the near-surface 4.1-billion-tonne openpit-style Pebble West deposit and the deeper and higher-grade 3.4-billion-tonne Pebble East deposit, which is amenable to underground bulk mining methods. The Pebble resources rank among the world’s most important accumulations of copper, gold and molybdenum.
Estimates show that the Pebble deposit comprises measured and indicated resources of 5.94-billion tonnes, grading 0.78% copper equivalent, and containing 55-billion pounds of copper, 67-million ounces of gold and 3.3-billlion pounds of molybdenum.
The deposit also has 4.84-billion tonnes of inferred resources, grading 0.53% copper equivalent and containing 26-billion pounds of copper, 40-million ounces of gold and 2.3-billion pounds of molybdenum.