JUNAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday took unusually strong steps to block a proposed mine heralded by its backers as the world’s most important untapped copper and gold resources. I taught. The rich Alaskan aquatic ecosystem supports the world’s largest sockeye fishery.
The move, hailed by Alaska Natives and environmentalists and condemned by some state officials and mining officials, has dealt a heavy blow to the proposed Pebble Mine. The proposed site is located in the remote Bristol Bay region of southwestern Alaska, approximately 200 miles (322 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage.
Developer Pebble Limited Partnership said in a permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it can only be accessed by helicopter and snowmobile in the winter. As proposed, mining rates of up to 73 million tonnes per year were required.
An appeal by the Pebble partnership against another denial of a key federal permit is pending.
In a statement, Pebble Limited Partnership CEO John Shivy called the EPA’s actions “illegal” and political, and said lawsuits were likely. Shirey has argued that the project is key for the Biden administration to meet its green energy goals and make the US less dependent on foreign countries for such minerals.
The Pebble Limited Partnership is owned by Canada-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.
According to the EPA, the pebble deposit is near the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed and supports an abundance of salmon “unique in North America.”
Tuesday’s announcement marks the 14th time in the nearly 50-year history of the Clean Water Act that the EPA has exercised its power to ban or limit activities over potential impacts on bodies of water, including fisheries. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said his agency’s use of a so-called veto in this case “highlights the true, unique, and irreplaceable natural wonders of Bristol Bay.”
The veto is a win for the environment, economy and tribes in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, which has opposed the proposal for more than a decade, said Joel Reynolds, director of the Western Division and senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Stated.
Reynolds said the mine would have brought 15,000 jobs to the area and jeopardized the region’s salmon fishery, which supplies about half of the world’s sockeye salmon. State officials last year reported that the 2022 catch was over 60 million.
“Science triumphs over politics. For biodiversity over extinction. For democracy over corporate power,” said Reynolds.
EPA cites analysis by U.S. Army Corps of Engineerssaid the discharge of dredging or filling material to build and operate the proposed mine site would lead to the loss of approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) of stream habitat and wetlands.
The Pebble partnership has maintained that the project can coexist with salmon. According to the partnership’s website, the deposit lies upstream of three “very small tributaries” and he believes the impact on the fishery “in the unlikely event of an accident” would be “minimal”. increase.
Republican Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said the EPA veto set a dangerous precedent that could affect the state’s future development, while state attorney general Treg Taylor said the EPA said his actions were “legally indefensible”.
“Amazingly, it lays the groundwork for halting mining or non-mining development projects in areas of Alaska with wetlands and fish streams,” Dunleavy said.
Senator Lisa MarkowskiAlaskan Republicans said they oppose the mining but said the EPA’s veto should not be allowed to jeopardize the state’s future mining operations.
“Let me be clear, I am against Pebble. Just to be clear as well, I support responsible mining in Alaska. It should not serve as a precedent for other projects in the state and should be the only opportunity for the EPA to exercise its veto power under the Alaska Clean Water Act.
Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, called the EPA’s action “the last nail in the coffin of the pebble mine” and the culmination of a hard-fought battle.
“Now we will have the Bristol Bay salmon run thriving for generations to come,” she said.
In 2010, tribes in the Bristol Bay area petitioned the EPA to protect the area under the federal Clean Water Act. Alannah Hurley, her director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay executive, said the EPA announcement was “to call it welcome news is an understatement.”
Group SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol praised the EPA’s decision, saying it “may be the most popular thing the federal government has ever done for Alaska.”
The EPA’s decision is the latest in years of back and forth over a multi-agency project.
Layla Kimbrel, executive director of Alaska’s Resource Development Council, called the EPA’s decision “a dangerous abuse of power and federal overreach.” The National Mining Association said domestic mining “has never been more important,” citing high demand for minerals and fragile global supply chains. It said the EPA’s decision “is in stark contrast to national and global realities.”
Whittle reported from Portland, Maine.