WASHINGTON/TORONTO May 12 U.S. environmental
regulators have cleared the path for a stalled copper and gold
mine in Alaska by agreeing to settle current lawsuits and other
issues over the project, which had drawn environmental concerns
over its potential impact on the world's largest sockeye salmon
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a statement on
Friday, said the settlement does not guarantee the proposed
Pebble mine project in southwest Alaska's Bristol Bay region
would ultimately win approval, but that its review would now be
carried out "in a fair, transparent, deliberate, and regular
The Pebble Limited Partnership mining company will terminate
two lawsuits it had filed against the EPA under the previous
administration of Democratic president Barack Obama, which had
sought to block it.
Backers of the project had been hopeful that Obama's
Republican successor, Donald Trump would allow it to proceed.
Shares of Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd, which owns the
massive Pebble deposit, gained more than 500 percent in the last
year, as Trump won the U.S. election in November and took office
In February 2014, the EPA took the unusual action of
blocking a mine before the owner applied for a development
Ronald Thiessen, chief executive officer of Northern
Dynasty, said in December that he expected the EPA to reverse
course in the first quarter of 2017.
The company is now in discussions "with a number of
potential partners," and could form a consortium to develop the
mine, Thiessen told analysts on a conference call.
One-time partners Rio Tinto and Anglo
American both backed out of the controversial project
several years ago.
Northern Dynasty plans to file permits after establishing a
partnership, said executives, and is studying a smaller project
design than previously considered.
"We think we're going to be able to get our permit granted
in record time," Thiessen said, noting Trump's push for
With an estimated 57 billion pounds of copper and 70 million
ounces of gold resources, Pebble is the world's largest
undeveloped copper and gold resource, he said.
Opponents of the mine include environmental groups as well
as many native residents who rely on the fish from the Bristol
Bay watershed, which EPA has said supports the world's largest
fishery of sockeye salmon. Many commercial fishermen and sport
fishermen are oppose it.
"The Trump administration should listen to the more than 65
percent of Alaskans, 80 percent of Bristol Bay residents and
native communities, and 85 percent of commercial fishermen who
oppose Pebble Mine," said Raul Grijalva, Democratic ranking
member of the House Natural Resource Committee, in a statement.
In the settlement reached on Thursday, Pebble Limited
Partnership can now apply for a Clean Water Act permit from the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the EPA said in its statement
released on Friday.
The EPA and Pebble Limited Partnership also agreed to ask
the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska to dismiss
related cases and lift a court-ordered preliminary injunction,
according to the statement.