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May 22 (Reuters) - Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd said on Thursday it has taken the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to court for seeking to block development of the Pebble copper-gold project in Alaska before the Canadian company could even apply for a permit.
Northern Dynasty argued in a filing to the U.S. District Court for Alaska that the EPA exceeded its authority under the Clean Water Act in February, when the regulator initiated a rarely-used process under the Clean Water Act to protect Alaska's salmon fishery from the impact of the project.
The EPA said at the time that the mine could cause irreversible harm to the fishery.
Northern Dynasty slammed the EPA for acting before the company applied for a permit or completed a normal environmental review. On Thursday, Northern Dynasty said the EPA can veto some permits, but cannot act before a company actually seeks a permit. Doing so would violate the state of Alaska's legal right to develop mineral resources, it said.
Opponents have long said the environmental risks of the Pebble project outweigh the benefits, citing the potential for widespread damage if polluted water were to enter streams in the region. Northern Dynasty says the mine could be developed safely, and would boost Alaska's economy with some 1,000 jobs through its operating life.
In September, global miner Anglo American Plc pulled out of the project, and in April Rio Tinto said it would give its 19.1 percent stake in Northern Dynasty to charity.
The company's shares, down more than a third this year to date, rose 6 percent on Thursday to 90 Canadian cents a share.
An EPA spokeswoman declined to comment on the lawsuit. (Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto)