Corps releases draft review of Pebble mine project

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a draft report detailing potential impacts of developing a large copper-and-gold mine near the headwaters of a major Alaska fishery.

The Pebble Limited Partnership has proposed an open-pit mine and related infrastructure including a power plant and water treatment plants and tailings storage sites. The proposed project also includes a 188-mile natural gas pipeline from the southern Kenai Peninsula under Cook Inlet to the mine site north of Iliamna Lake, access roads, a large port on Cook Inlet and an ice-breaking ferry across the lake.

Pebble CEO Tom Collier said in a prepared statement that the company's initial reivew of the draft environmental impact statement didn't reveal any large data gaps or impacts of the project that cannot adequately be addressed.

"We see no significant environmental challenges that would preclude the project from getting a permit and this shows Alaska stakeholders that there is a clear path forward for this project that could potentially generate significant economic activity, tax revenue and thousands of jobs. I also commend the corps for their comprehensive, efficient and transparent management of the process thus far," Collier said.

The corps plans to take comments for 90 days starting March 1 on its analysis of various development alternatives for the proposed Pebble Mine, including a no-development option. Public hearings will also be held in nine communities.

Development alternatives considered in the EIS include different road and ferry routes, open water-only ferry operations and using a pipeline to transport mine slurry from the mine site instead of trucks.

The project is in Alaska's Bristol Bay region. About half the world's sockeye salmon is produced by Bristol Bay. Critics say a mine doesn't belong there and have faulted the corps for its EIS review.

Bristol Bay Native Corp. has led opposition to the project and CEO Jason Metrokin said in a statement provided to the Journal that the comment period should be much longer.

"Now is the time to ensure that Pebble mine is thoroughly vetted, the public's voice is heard, and Pebble Limited Partnership addresses the clear deficiencies in its application and plans in Bristol Bay," Metrokin said. "A 270-day comment period on the (draft) EIS is the first — and necessary — step in holding PLP accountable during the permitting process. Bristol Bay cannot become a laboratory to test unproven and unprecedented mining practices."

Pebble in 2017 settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that cleared the way for the company to seek permits.


Journal reporter Elwood Brehmer contributed to this story. Look for updates in an upcoming issue of the Journal.

02/20/2019 - 1:31pm