It’s the latest in a series of moves by the federal government and Alaska Native groups that could doom a project to mine the ore once valued at $300 billion to $500 billion. The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (first the Trump administration, then the Biden administration) currently refuse to develop, creating multiple barriers to its revival that experts say are difficult to overcome. increase.
Earlier, Obama officials also took steps to block the mine, telling the company it could not apply for a permit.
“It’s hard to imagine a court [overturning] It’s kind of a double shot,” said Bob Perciacepe, a former acting EPA administrator during the Obama administration who led the aviation and water divisions during the Clinton administration. “The amount of money the company must continue to provide in order to sustain its activity seems difficult.”
An executive at Pebble Partnership, the sole asset of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals, said it would continue.
“Unfortunately, the Biden EPA continues to ignore fair and due process in favor of politics,” said Partnership CEO John Sibley in a statement. It is not legally, technically or environmentally supported, so the next step will be to take legal action to combat this injustice.”
Others have declared the project to be history.
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“This is the final nail in the Pebble Mine coffin,” said Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. She added that the mine “will devastate salmon in Bristol Bay”, killing thousands of families who depend on its fishery.
on average, The sprawling Bristol Bay supports 37.5 million sockeye salmon annually, supporting a $2 billion commercial fishery and livelihood for Alaska Natives. EPA Administrator Michael Reagan called it “a priceless wonder of nature.”
New EPA protections prohibit Pebble developers or other similar miners from dumping mining waste into three small watersheds that are part of the Bristol Bay network. That’s necessary to protect both the region’s fisheries and its culture, the agency said.
Environmentalists and Indigenous Groups, First We called for this move over a decade ago, and we’re backing it this week. Alaska Native groups are strongly opposed to the construction and are urging the developers to abandon the project in order to protect local fisheries and the land they hold sacred.
“Today’s announcement is a historic breakthrough,” said Alannah Hurley, executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium of tribal governments.
Pebble Limited is in its third year of appealing the Army unit’s decision to deny mining site permits from November 2020. It has the support of Alaska’s leaders, with Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) previously threatening to sue the EPA if it moves to deny mining more broadly in the region.
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“The EPA’s veto sets a dangerous precedent,” Dunleavy said in a statement anticipating the decision. “It lays the groundwork for stopping mining or non-mining development projects in areas with Alaskan wetlands and fish streams. We stand up for the people and the future of Alaska.”
The Biden administration also came under fire from Alaska’s leaders a week ago for its decision to ban logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Not wanting to interfere, he said the Bristol Bay decision was small and limited to a unique and special area.
Authorities invoked a rarely used power (often called a veto) under the Clean Water Act to restrict mining within Pebble’s proposed 308-square-mile footprint. Authorities can use this power to block specific projects and permits, but they can also block development more broadly across classified areas, as authorities are doing in Bristol Bay. It’s the third time in 30 years that the agency has exercised this power, Regan said.
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“As a source of food and employment, and as a means of upholding sacred Indigenous customs and practices, Bristol Bay sustains the livelihoods of so many people,” Regan told reporters by phone. He said this final action demonstrates the government’s commitment to “protect our nation’s vital natural resources and protect the livelihoods of those who depend so heavily on the health and well-being of these magnificent oceans.” There is
Environmentalists said they plan to continue asking Congress for further protection of Bristol Bay and its fisheries. potentially overturning decisions from the EPA and Army units.
Chris Wood, president of conservation group Trout Unlimited, said in a statement: “The time has come to commit to lasting protection of the entire Bristol Bay Basin, commensurate with the extent of the threat to this special site.